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Developers attend Blackberry 10 Jam in Kitchener on August 23, 2012.Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

Research In Motion Ltd. struggled with a service outage that affected BlackBerry users on three continents on Friday.

RIM's U.K. branch acknowledged the problem in a short message on Twitter early Friday morning.

"Some users in Europe, Middle East & Africa are experiencing issues with their BlackBerry service," the company wrote.

"We are investigating and apologize for any inconvenience."

Just a few hours later, the company said it had fixed the problem, and apologized for the inconvenience to customers.

There was no word from the company on what caused the problem or how many users had been affected. It doesn't appear that BlackBerry users outside the three regions mentioned in the company's Twitter note have been affected.

The timing is particularly bad for RIM because the service interruptions coincide with the first day of sales for Apple's newest iPhone, which itself is expected to break sales records this weekend.

Almost exactly a year ago, RIM suffered the worst system failure in company history, after traffic-directing hardware at one of its European servers failed. The outage lasted several days, affected tens of millions of users and gave the company a public relations black eye.

This time, however, the company appears to have gotten the problem under control in just a few hours.

In the year since the last service outage, RIM shares have dropped from about $20 (U.S.) a share on the NASDAQ to less than $7, as the company struggles to make up market share it continues to lose to rivals such as Apple and Samsung.