It's been a busy week for the mobile industry, with
) all having held events meant to hype new technologies.
One of the biggest pieces of news to come out of BlackBerry's Live
developer conference on Tuesday was that BlackBerry Messenger
(BBM), arguably the company's most popular service, will now be
) and Android platforms.
Though BlackBerry is far, far away from its halcyon days as the
world's most popular smartphone --
) Phone has just pushed BlackBerry to fourth place in the global
smartphone market -- BBM, the pioneer of instant messaging apps and
the predecessor to the likes of Whatsapp and Viber, remains popular
with loyal BlackBerry customers. The app has around 61 million
active users a month, with 51 million of them using the app daily
for an average of 90 minutes.
"The time is definitely right for BBM to become a multi-platform
mobile service. BBM has always been one of the most engaging
services for BlackBerry customers, enabling them to easily connect
while maintaining a valued level of personal privacy. We're excited
to offer iOS and Android users the possibility to join the BBM
community," said BlackBerry's software vice president Andrew
Bocking at the conference.
Clearly, rolling out BBM on iOS and Android will allow BlackBerry
to reach a much larger potential customer base. It's also a move
that would allow the company to compete in the services arena,
which is looking like the next area of growth for mobile companies.
But now that it's cross-platform, BBM will face extremely tough
(FB) Messenger and Skype have user bases of 1.11 billion and 280
million respectively, while smaller upstarts WhatsApp and WeChat
also have some 200 million and 190 million users. It's an
understatement to say that the real-time messaging market is
The move could also be a double-edged sword for BlackBerry. BBM was
always the crown jewel of the company, and by going cross-platform,
BlackBerry not only loses its unique identity, it could potentially
alienate loyal customers who have stuck with the company and ease
the way for them to transition away from BlackBerry devices.
"BlackBerry's new move is like an Emperor's new clothes; in
actuality there's nothing new to show. BBM on other devices can no
longer be a game changer, considering how well other apps like
Whatsapp, et al are doing. On the contrary, by taking BB chat to
other phones, BB will lose its USP. Now, one need not purchase a BB
phone to be able to chat up with people on the platform. It could
well be a thing they might regret in the coming days. Much like
their playbook," Shashwat DC, a mobile industry observer and the
former editor of DataQuest and IT Next Magazine, told
Light Reading India
Richard Windsor, founder of the mobile-focused blog
Radio Free Mobile
and a former tech analyst at Nomura, shares similar sentiments.
"A major reason to buy a BlackBerry device has now been removed,
meaning that the user experience and hardware specification must
now win over users on their own. This is an incredibly risky move
as previously locked-in users may now abandon the platform while
still being able to access BBM," writes Windsor on his blog.
Not everyone is as bearish on BlackBerry's move, of course.
contributor Larry Magid believes that making BBM cross-platform
helps improve brand equity.
"One thing it does do is make BlackBerry more relevant. People are
talking about it and thinking about it and BlackBerry users can now
use BBM to reach out to their friends who are Android and iOS
users," writes Magid, adding that "it could also serve as an
incentive for some to stay with BlackBerry because their BBM
product just got a lot more useful."
, Kurt Windibank is also bullish on BBM's prospects, arguing that
the app's superiority over its competition (BBM has a Channels
feature which easily enables brands and businesses to engage with
users in a discreet fashion) will allow BlackBerry to monetize it
"The implications for making BBM a cross-platform application are
huge. The opportunities to monetize will grow as they have with any
other social media application. The key for BlackBerry is to grow
[the user] base, and by offering it for free to iOS and Android
users, they will do just that. This is a smart move on the part of
BlackBerry and fits in nicely with Thorsten Heins' stated goal of
putting a slice of BB10 everywhere," writes Windibank.
"Active users of the service can effectively become the de facto
'subs' that bears like to point out BlackBerry has been losing,"
Windibank continues. "By having a large and growing user base
actively engaged in BBM, BlackBerry can influence future smartphone
buyers to look at the BlackBerry offering directly as a smartphone
option while at the same time 'engaging' non BlackBerry users on a
Shares of BlackBerry have fallen over 5% since the Canadian
company's developer conference on Tuesday, though the fall is
likely due more to Sanford Bernstein downgrading the stock to
Market Perform and lowering its price target to $15 from $22.
Disclosure: Minyanville Studios, a division of Minyanville
Media, has a business relationship with BlackBerry.
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