Canada's Research In Motion Ltd will offer free premium apps worth more than $100 to appease BlackBerry customers frustrated by last week's global disruption of smartphone service.
Research In Motion said on Monday a selection of premium apps would become available to download without charge at BlackBerry App World for four weeks beginning October 19.
It will also offer corporate clients using the secure enterprise network one month of free technical support as an apology for the outage.
The offering, to compensate for a system failure that left tens of millions of Blackberry users on five continents without email, instant messaging and browsing, could be expensive for RIM and it remains to be seen how many customers will see the offer as an acceptable response.
Shares of RIM dropped about 1.5 percent in early Nasdaq trading on Monday. The stock has tumbled this year as the BlackBerry lost market share to Apple Inc's iPhone and devices powered by Google's Android system.
Analysts have said the company faces a wider problem of repairing the damage to its image after the outage and loss of corporate customers who no longer think they can rely on the BlackBerry.
RIM has responded swiftly but this won't undo the damage done to its reputation, analyst Geoff Blaber at CCS Insight told Reuters. This may go some way to appeasing customers but what's critical is that the problem does not repeat itself.
Richard Levick, who runs a U.S. consultancy that specializes in crisis management, praised the move but said the company should have made the announcement last week.
I think it's a good start, but they are always late, he said. They are always behind the curve.
QUESTION OF TRUST
RIM co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie apologized last week to millions of Blackberry customers for the four-day outage, which may have set back its drive to catch up with Apple and other competitors.
We've worked hard to earn their (customers') trust over the past 12 years and we're committed to providing the high standard of reliability they expect, RIM Co-CEO Mike Lazaridis said in the statement on Monday.
We are taking immediate and aggressive steps to help prevent something like this from happening again.
Some mobile operators such as Spanish group Telefonica SA have already said they will compensate customers, although analysts believe they will also be looking at whether they can pass on some of those costs to RIM.
The apps include games such as Bejeweled, a translation service and the music discovery tool Shazam.
Francisco Jeronimo at IDC said the decision was a clever move by RIM because it would help customers to discover the app service. He said the company was likely to have struck a deal with app developers to keep the cost down.
For RIM, this is an interesting way to attract users to the App World and incentivize them to search and download apps, he said. What RIM probably did was an agreement with developers and is not charging the percentage on revenues they keep when a user buys an app.
More important than the offer itself, is that RIM is showing goodwill and being humble. They recognized the problem, apologized and now they are compensating their users.
(Reporting by Kate Holton in London and Tarmo Virki in Helsinki; Additional reporting by Pav Jordan and Sakthi Prasad; Editing by Frank McGurty)