Research in Motion's (RIM) Blackberry devices form part of the communication backbone of a number of big companies in the UK, US and around the world, with over 3.5 million users worldwide.
The uphill patent battle RIM is facing in the US, however, casts a bleak shadow over the company’s future and sheds an unfavourable light on the general use of patents to milk cash cows and the knock-on impact for end users.
Because discussions over licensing reached a dead end earlier this year, NTP, which owns the patents, is seeking to up its license demand considerably from the $450 million agreed in March.
Whatever the long term outcome, one of the more immediate results could be the shut down of the whole network. This brings us to one of the most essential jobs of CIO/CTO and that is planning for worst case scenarios, not just hoping that they won't happen. Contingency plans are there for just this type of event.
Northwest Airlines response, when faced with the doomsday scenario that their whole Blackberry-based end-user communication system might have to be closed within 30 days, was to "demand" a conference call with RIM executives, which was due to take place earlier this week.
What the final outcome will be from what's happening across the Atlantic is anyone's guess, but I am sure that investors and quite a few firms must be nervously wondering what's around the corner. Analyst firm Gartner has already advised its clients to stop deploying mission critical applications of Blackberry.
Shares of the Canadian company have been unaffected so far but for how long? IT departments on both sides of the ocean will have to work double shifts to make sure that they can come forward with alternative solutions if ever the network gets zapped.
Placing all your eggs in the Blackberry basket was thought to be secure but let this case be a worthy lesson for the future.