BIS goes bust for BlackBerry.

BlackBerry as a brand has been beaten up quite a bit over the last year or so. Against the backdrop of a steadily declining stock price there’s been the threats of the devices being banned in Gulf states & India, the unfortunate association of BBM and the UK riots and the continuing outages of the BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) — the latest hitting a bit too close to home, rendering my girlfriend’s handset effectively useless for anything more than a game of Brick Breaker.

The root of all these problems is RIM’s insistence on a hosted Internet service for its non-enterprise customers.

Foreign governments have every right to contest their citizens’ data flowing through North American servers. And scariest for me during the UK riots was to consider how easily the BBM service could be switched off, denying millions of innocent people access to a means of communication they may well depend on. As for the outages, I remember all too well from my days as a hiptop/Sidekick user how much it sucks to not have Internet access when the rest of the Internet does.

BIS wasn’t a bad idea back in the dark times before 3G service, when WAP sites were the order of the day and photo sharing or video streaming weren’t even possible on a mobile device. Even so, RIM should have foreseen that the very idea of centralized data centres wouldn’t scale, and were bound to become a liability sooner or later.

So what can be done?

Given that BlackBerry was originally built for enterprise it seems to me that the obvious short-term solution is to do away with BIS altogether, and have each carrier roll out their own BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) instead. Carriers are, after all, the biggest beneficiaries of BlackBerry data — all those pared down ones and zeroes ease congestion on their networks, right?

But ultimately I don’t think that any filtered Internet solution is tenable. Just as the proprietary online services of the early 1990s gave way to the 21st century broadband ISP, its inevitable that BlackBerry will fall at the knees of more powerful devices built to make use of every available scrap of bandwidth in 4G networks and beyond.

Unless RIM opens up its pipes, and fast.