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Research in Motion, the company behind the BlackBerry mobile phones and messaging service, says this morning that its systems have been restored and service should be returning to normal following an outage that left many customers unable to send or receive emails and other messages from their devices.

RIM says the root cause was a failed switching mechanism that led to a backlog of messages around the world.

The big question now is what this will do to RIM and the BlackBerry brand long term.

The company, headquartered in Canada, was an early leader in mobile messaging, but it has been losing ground to Apple and Google in the U.S. as the iPhone and Android devices have charged to the front of the market, as shown in the GeekWire chart above, based on data from comScore Networks.

The timing of the outage was particularly inauspicious, on the eve of the iPhone 4S launch.

RIM has also been struggling to expand beyond phones, getting a lackluster reception for its BlackBerry PlayBook tablet computer release earlier this year.

RIM Founder and Co-CEO Mike Lazaridis issued this apology to customers this morning.

If you’re a BlackBerry user, how are you feeling at this point?

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