Action on Wall Street has slowed to a crawl. Finance rolls on information, and the finance community’s favourite way of sending and receiving—the ubiquitous BlackBerry mobile phone—is on the blink. Worse, Research in Motion (RIM), the Canadian firm which operates the system, has not given any updates on when it expects normal service to resume. It may seem horrid, but it’s not the end of the world, neither for users, nor RIM.
RIM is in a delicate state. Motorola and Nokia are pushing their own versions of mobile email. But RIM has the advantage of incumbency. In fact, its position is like Bloomberg’s was in the 1990s. The financial service was threatened by rivals such as Dow Jones and Reuters. Three times its service crashed after popular stories were printed: the death of marijuana-loving musician Jerry Garcia; Olympic ice skater Tonia Harding’s kneecapping of a rival, and Lorena Bobbitt cutting off her husband’s penis. But Bloomberg learned two things and hasn’t looked back—never underestimate the taste of traders, and the more popular a service is, the more it needs to be reliable. RIM needs to learn the second lesson if it doesn’t want to be dethroned.