BlackBerry Messenger’s last stand is good for everyone

Daniel Bader

May 15, 2013 5:54 pm

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When BlackBerry announced its popular messaging platform, BBM, would be snaking its way on to iOS and Android handsets this summer, the reaction was understandably mixed.

Many users decried its lateness –- where was it two, even four years ago? – tacitly acknowledging its declining importance in the hugely popular and potentially lucrative messaging ecosystem. So what if BBM users send 10 billion messages daily; who cares about 60 million users? WhatsApp boasts 20 billion daily discourses and 200 million active users, an enviable number for any service.

More importantly, though BBM’s siloed nature worked in its favour during the height of BlackBerry mania, it has since been supplanted by companies willing to develop for multiple operating systems. Again WhatsApp comes to mind, but Waterloo’s own Kik is making remarkable strides in net users on just two platforms, BlackBerry not being one of them.

Indeed, the two most important places to be on mobile these days are iOS and Android, and by building for them BlackBerry is saying two things. First, it is admitting its place in the hierarchy; even if BB10 finds success it will likely never unseat Android and iOS for market share. Second, it is attempting to eke value from one of two remaining consumer brand images that still engender loyalty, the other being the company’s iconic QWERTY keyboard. BlackBerry 10, responsive and feature-filled as it is, doesn’t tower over the competition for features or performance, and while its security promises afford it a level of trustworthiness and reliability, the average consumer either feels adequately safe loading apps and sending emails on iOS and Android or he doesn’t care either way.

BlackBerry still has an edge in the enterprise market, but as we’ve seen from the Pentagon’s recent policy changes, that star may not shine as brightly a year from now, either.

So here we have BlackBerry 10, a fantastic little OS with some big plans for mobile computing – five or ten years from now. At the moment, though, the company needs a success story, something to show investors that it’s still worth caring about. BlackBerry Messenger for iOS and Android is an important step in realizing the company’s potential as a services provider, a trusted envoy not only for backend network infrastructure but consumer-facing brands people care about.

BlackBerry Messenger needed to launch on other platforms to stem the tide of users defecting to other apps. WhatsApp for BlackBerry 10 is currently the only cross-platform messaging app I’d even consider using, but give me BBM over another any day of the week. It’s still the fastest, most reliable data-based communications tool, period. BBM Calling and Video will eventually come to the iOS and Android clients, too, making it a competitor in the VoIP space, too.

Most importantly, a multi-platform BBM doesn’t undermine BlackBerry handsets as a viable consumer choice. Ironically, the fact that we’re no longer in the age of BBM as a device-selling feature is the very reason for its impending success on other operating systems. A person buying a BlackBerry 10 handsets is doing so not just for its superior messaging capabilities, which it shares with the iPhone and high-end Android devices, but for the integrated Hub, solid developer tools promising excellent apps, attractive form factors, quality build materials, and consistently good performance.

In other words, having BBM on iOS and Android makes me more, not less, likely to be a BlackBerry customer going forward. I have so few friends still using BlackBerries that the attraction for me, and many others potentially upgrading from legacy devices to BB10, is knowing that I can adopt a Z10 or Q10 and not worry about having a small selection of messaging tools. Or at least knowing that, if I choose BlackBerry, it’s less limiting than it would be if BBM was still siloed.

And that, along with BlackBerry’s newfound flexibility as a services provider, is good news for me, you and everyone we know.

  • KoalaMeatPie

    So now, I to can sleezely ask ”Hey, girl, whats your PIN?”!

  • TheShader

    It’s part of the move from Device Manufacturer to Software provider.
    Blackberry’s best long term strategy is to be the very best MDM provider and best communication platform.
    The former is easier to see happening and likely they will supplant folks like Goode, ZenPrise, etc. but it’s a bit late for BBM to do a similar play, because people like Google and Apple have already invested significantly in their platforms and others like Facebook and What’s App have already eroded a lot of their market share and mind-share that BBM start to look old and tired.
    Many friends would’ve paid heavily to get BBM on their iOS device a year or so ago, but one iMessage came along, the motivation dropped and it would likely still be interesting but not as compelling (less likely to pay for it).
    BBM still has a lot of features no found in iMessage etc, but most people don’t care enough to move back from whatever they have since moved too.

    • FuzzyFish6

      Here’s the thing, the universal consensus for why people like iOS or Android is apps, apps and more apps. Now here’s a free messaging platform that is going to be the best or one of the best available and now people won’t care enough to use?

      It’s a small download, you don’t think people will just download it for no other reason than to just have it?

    • Jerry

      Not many people download apps just for sheets and giggles and leave them on their phones. Not unless they have some form of OCD.
      People will download this to communicate with others they know that are still rockin the 90′s crackberries, and not much more. Sure there might be a select group that “might” decide to use it solely (ie: loyalists/sheep or whatever they’re called these days), but can’t see those numbers being noteworthy.

    • FuzzyFish6

      How many apps do you have on your phone Jerry?

    • TheShader

      But it’s not anywhere near as profitable as a free platform, and that’s why I say it’s too late.
      They’ll download it, but you don’t make Bazillions of dollars a year from ad-generated revenue on someone else’s platform, unless you’re Google.

    • FuzzyFish6

      But that’s not the point Shader, they’re not releasing BBM cross platform to generate ad revenue. Once again it’s mind-share, hoping to get their name back in front of people on other platforms with an app that’s solid and potentially popular.

      You’re right that many people are entrenched into their current platform, but there are many people who aren’t. In fact I bet you most consumers won’t be, remember that hardcore power users are in the minority.

      Mobile is a fast moving beast, to think that everyone will stay with a single OS as it ages is as naive as RIM management was 3+ years ago.

    • Ian’s daddy

      Call around to some carrier stores and ask them how this news has affected their sales. You will most likely be surprised since you are currently in denial. Go for it. I almost dare you.

  • Conception

    I think RIM’s (‘er BlackBerry’s) f****d and I own (and love) a PlayBook and a Torch…was waiting to hear if the PB would get OS 10 but it doesn’t look good with all the doublespeak coming from Politician/Actor/Lawyer/Liar or is it CEO Mr Heinz.

    • Manic Devlin

      I could never imagine someone buys the two worst products that Blackberry has ever made. I guess I was wrong.

      Playbook will never have BB10, they only said that to get rid of the rest of their inventory. A CEO who has the balls to says Tablets will not exist in 5 years was the best hint you can get that Playbook support is dead.

      I would be incredibly surprised if BB10 actually does come out to playbook, but I rather think Blackberry is not in the best position to waste talent and man hours for a extinct device on such a pivotal period in their company.

    • FuzzyFish6

      PB and the Torch are the 2 worst products the company has ever made? What?

    • Manic Devlin

      Yes.

    • FuzzyFish6

      You’ve never used the Storm lol.

    • Manic Devlin

      Never speak of that thing. I block it from my memory.

    • Conception

      I have a 9810 Torch and it’s actually pretty damn reliable, takes a beating and keeps on working. It’s actually a very decent product. It lasts all day and then some, has a keyboard and a touch screen and has a GPS and maps that works excellently. The camera is pretty damn good too. Maybe your Torch was a 9800 but the 9810 is a way different beast.

    • Jerry

      Yep, he typed it clearly. The playbook runs at a snails pace. Much slower than even those terrible pan digital android tablets. And the torch, well… Let google be your friend.

    • FuzzyFish6

      Stop being so dramatic.

    • Ian’s daddy

      Stop being flame bait and wake up to reality?

    • Rich

      Seems like the Playbook just doesn’t have the ram required to run BB10 reliably. Hell, even the “budget” R5 phone has 2 gigs of ram.

    • Conception

      You don’t have a clue what you are talking about…

      See Wikipedia for reference for the Apple iPad’s:

      1st generation:
      256 MB DDR RAM

      2nd generation:
      512 MB DDR2 RAM

      3rd & 4th generation:
      1024 MB DDR2 RAM

      Mini:
      512 MB DDR2 RAM

    • Beef jerky

      The difference is apple actually knows how to manage ram on iOS. And I’ll leave it at that…

    • Conception

      I’ll give you that…

    • TheShader

      You can leave it at that, but you’d be wrong. They don’t manage the RAM, they manage the users and the apps, limiting their usage. they’re not more efficient, they just make you think they’d doing as much with less, while they’re doing less with less, but most of their users don’t notice or wouldn’t even know how to tell.

    • Ian’s daddy

      Don’t speak. You just emanate ignorance all over the place.

    • r0v3rT3N

      First of all, what he actually said in that interview, and what the media said he said is completely different. The media enjoys playing “telephone”, and scrambling the message purposely for page views.

    • Ian’s daddy

      They won’t add insult to injury. The playbook barely runs right now. You don’t want to add anymore bloat to it or it won’t run at all. Those 5 minute boot times would go to 20.

    • FuzzyFish6

      Is BB fu*ked because of how you perceive the company is doing or is your view based on what’s been happening?

    • Conception

      What the company is doing and how they’re doing it. Shareholders are starting to agree and their stock price has stagnated…they make empty promises and do not have enough resources to execute fast enough.

      The competition is eating their lunch don’t forget. Eventually the competition (Android and Apple) will catch up on security and if they really wanted to they could add a velvety smooth chicklet keyboard to a model just to equalize things. With apps like WhatsApp and iMessage, the competition doesn’t need BlackBerry’s crown jewel BBM (released by summertime 2013). It is clear that they are growing desperate. It’s too little too late…

      I am a very pro BlackBerry fanboi too if you can believe that and I had hope…but now reality is setting in and I am mad.

    • FuzzyFish6

      Well, you do understand that stock prices often doesn’t have much to do with how a company in BB’s situation is actually doing. Furthermore we haven’t even had a single quarter of full BB10 sales, what exactly would shareholders have to go on here?

      What are the empty promises? BB10 on PB? We still don’t know what’s happening there. It might or might not happen, we don’t know.

      Does security sell phones? Maybe to a portion of the enterprise side, but to think BB is banking heavily on their security “advantage” and very little else is way off base.
      BBM going cross platform is anything but desperate, it’s a strategic decision for brand awareness. If you disagree, think about what other benefits they gain by offering it for free.

      I’m not a BB fanboy, they happen to be my brand of choice currently because what they offer matches my needs the best at this point in time. I’ll move around to different manufactures based on my needs and how each OS meets these needs.
      Reality is that they’re already making money again, and their cash reserve went UP even after a world wide launch of a major product. All the while still have zero debt, those are NOT signs of a company in immediate trouble.

      Who knows what’s really going to happen with BB10, it may succeed or it might not. But as of today all signs are encouraging for the company.

  • Khristopher Ranger

    I’d really like to see BBM become the de facto messaging app that the majority uses. It’s easy to use and is dependable. I’m tired of people asking me to add random apps like Whatsapp, Viber and KIK, among others. Reminds me of the days when there was AIM, Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger, etc.

    • David Etienne

      Random app like Whatsapp? It has over 200 million users lol

    • Manic Devlin

      Whatsapp is pretty unreliable, the only reason people use third party chat apps is because the official communication apps from each smartphone company has no cross platform support.

      Once an alternative to whatsapp comes out like BBM, watch how that 200 million users disappear like myspace subs.

    • David Etienne

      I wouldn’t know, I don’t use either.

    • FuzzyFish6

      But “it has over 200 million users lol”.

    • FuzzyFish6

      Not to mention BBM will be free whereas Whatsapp charges $1/year.

    • David Etienne

      If BB was smart, they would charge as well. I guarantee people would pay for a decidedly superior app.

    • Manic Devlin

      Maybe they might do that for “premium features”, but to gain growth, they would have to do it free. Blackberry already confirmed that it will be free and launch this summer with limited functionality. As more features are added to non-blackberry platforms and they see that BBM is growing at a fast rate, only can they speculate to charge for features and service.

    • FuzzyFish6

      It’s about mind-share, charging (more) for everything isn’t always ideal depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.

      Is Google dumb for not charging phone manufacturers for Android?

    • iPlunks

      only iOS users are the only ones that i seen been chraged

    • Beef jerky

      Ya but it goes free for a week in the App Store every other month or so.

    • iPlunks

      This guy love s…LOVES to knock on a products that opposes Blackberry. Whatsapp does everything BBM does and is available on iOS, Android, WP and Nokia Symbian/S40. This if anything would be Blackberries back pocket option. being a Service provider if it doesnt make it in the hardware dept. BBM would catch on and be used over whatsapp, kik etc but its only on iOS/Android. Whatsapp and Skype are on all platforms.

    • r0v3rT3N

      WhatsApp can’t compete with BBM, in my opinion…

    • Stylz Kartel

      “Whatsapp does everything BBM does”???? Does WhatsApp do any of the following: shows proper marks for read? Invite using email, QPR code or NFC? Compresses data? Contact backup via cloud? Allows moving images in your profile pic? Voice calls? Video chat? Screenshare?

    • dandoozled

      I would love to see google talk, or some other app that has a freaking desktop client become the standard.

      it’s irritating to have to pull my phone out of my pocket to answer a message when I’m working on my laptop.

    • FuzzyFish6

      A desktop client would be nice for sure. Though I do tend to use my phone just as much even when I’m on my PC or laptop.

    • Rich

      MightyText for android~ let’s you SMS from your computer (send and receive)

    • dandoozled

      does it work with my Mac laptop, as well as my Linux desktop?

      I’m not ruling it out, but if it doesn’t work *everywhere* I have limited use for it.

  • Manic Devlin

    There is some misinformation and bad assumptions in this article.

    First of all the DOD does not see Android and iOS as secure platforms, but rather allowing these platforms to be used with non-sensitive information being communicated. Meaning people who have android and iphones can use it if you are low level employee or sweep the floors.

    Second, Blackberry can never survive in being an only software/service company, QNX has made no money yet it is installed in almost everything. Android is free as well yet Google’s business model is based on ad money through freeware. Blackberry can’t compete against such a model unless it can carve itself a niche amongst the big two with a different approach.

    Even Verizon CEO is glad that their an alternative to Android and iOS because the duopoly in platforms only translates to bad business for their clients.

    Blackberry phones will be here for a long time, the new BB10 phones have more than enough to match and even surpass competitor platforms in efficiency and function. Moving forward, hardware will no longer matter, it’s the software and services that will count.

    It is the only OS that can be controlled simply be gestures and no buttons at all. Even Google has admitted to this course of action in the evolution of their smartphones and OS by removing all physical buttons from their Nexus line as well as incorporating some swipe features on several of their apps.

    BBM going cross platform is not so much about making money off of it, rather to create dependants and deliver much exposure to vindicate BBM as the best, most secure and reliable communication platform. Not only does this help Blackberry secure a dominance over communication in mobile space but also advertise Blackberry branding to be “cool” again.

    In a few years, Blackberry will have one of the greatest turnaround stories next to Apple. Wait and see.

    • David Etienne

      You must be REALLY confident that a single app will drive people back to BlackBerry, considering a lot of the last BlackBerry holdouts resisted switching to iOS or Android because they “couldn’t do without BBM.” To me, making it free to the competition is a huge missed opportunity for BlackBerry.

    • Manic Devlin

      To the contrary, not making this a cross platform app, cost them dearly. Now that blackberry owners are a minority in smartphone marketshare, it would foolish and counterintuitive to allow BBM to remain only on Blackberry 10 devices. Not only would this impede blackberry adoption but also shrink BBM user base as people flock to cross platform chat apps. This is the ONLY reason why whatsapp and others become successful. Convenience is the key word.

    • iPlunks

      But why jump to blackberry when you can get it on iOS and Android. Blackberry should have done more, marketed the hell out of it for there own hardware. There are times i felt like buying a curve just so i can have BBM running in my vains again. Offering it to 2 platforms that you are looking to over take in the near future isnt going to help them. Unless when they are in a good postition they would just kill the app

    • Jerry

      Ignorance is bliss, lol.

      First, both android and apples devices have been fips 140-2 certified at a secret level security profile. While they haven’t been approved for higher level security yet, they could if requested and/or desired. Changes would be required, but it’s not like its something that can be done. Not even close. Heck apple hasn’t even targeted that market segment, as with most android vendors.
      When talking device security, in apples case all you need is a pass code set on the device and its entire contents are encrypted to levels that law enforcement and government agencies cannot currently break. Read the recent news on that one to enlighten yourself.
      Your argument about gestures… Completely false. That was a design choice which can (and has) been done on other platforms for years already (albeit through rooting and/or jailbreaking). What cave have you been hiding in?
      BBM secure? That’s a good one (for laughs)! BBM uses 3DES for encryption with a known key. Even without the key, it’s trivial to break with only desktop computing power. This is the same encryption that has been phased out of 98% of all private communications for its “lack” of security. The only thing it has going for it is that it’s fast and that hardware acceleration for it costs next to nothing.

    • johentie

      what happens if u jailbreak it? just want to know… i know someone that loaded their work emails to an iphone 5.. (dunno the means) and it automatically told him he had to set a device password… he jailbroke it and hacked it to bypass that password.. is something else done on the iphone to prevent jailbreaking or this type of behaviour? just curious.. thanks..

    • Beef jerky

      Jailbreaking like rooting, does not qualify as a point of argument here as if you don’t make the choice to modify your system you cannot bypass the security. That and the last time I checked if you we’re current on your software updates, there is no jailbreak. Even if there was and your phone was jailbroken, your data is still safe from a third party if you follow passcode procedures.

    • johentie

      ahhh true.. i thought if u jailbreak you are vulnerable to attacks as it creates a hole to the entire file system.. thanks for the clarification…

    • Yourmom

      No, that’s just some ignoramuses statement which unfortunately the not too bright pickup and regurgitate. By default jail breaking your device does not make it any less secure. It’s what you do with it afterwards. Which is also a reason the device Xsan be made much more secure. Much, much more!

    • Manic Devlin

      Jailbreaking is in itself a breach of security. And Apple still have not received official approval. Only Samsung Knox with specific phones with hardware modifications have been officially approved.

    • FuzzyFish6

      Ignorance is indeed bliss, Jerry.

    • Ian’s daddy

      Shouldn’t you be back under heinz’s desk cleaning his…. Uh….. Shoes?

  • WireNow

    All this has shown is that BBM will be a welcome alternative to Whatsapp for those who want to keep in touch with their BBRY friends/colleagues. Whatsapp is also not used solely by those latter type of users. This does not show, in any way, that adding BBM to other mobile platforms will make users more likely to be BBRY adopters, just that they might -saying it again, use BBM as an alternative to Whatsapp

  • Blocknards

    That’s 200 million people whose privacy have been violated.

    • iPlunks

      how is that so? do they make money off you by using the numbers in you phonebook? unless you use google who makes money on your privacy, you comment is pointless

  • johentie

    bang on.. no other messaging platform can do all of the above.. they can do bits and pieces.. viber can do voice and messaging but no video.. tango can do video and messaing but no voice.. kakao talk can do voice and messaging but no video.. whatsapp can do just messaging… skype is the only one that do all of the above but its paid … also the group functionality is AMAZING on BBM.. i dunno if the full feature list of the groups will be unleashed to ios and android, but i love how it integrates with the calendar.. i have a bbm group for me and my wife.. we put everything from calendar events we have to go to, to grocery lists in the tasks/notes app within the groups… i have a organization i head up and i use BBM groups to again schedule and make changes to the events.. the good thing about it is .. i get a notification to every change that happens to the events, or if a task gets added or deleted.

    • Beef jerky

      Tango – are video convos done using sign language now? No voice input allowed?

    • johentie

      there is a difference between having a choice between Voice calls and video calls… sometimes u don’t or CAN’T video call due to driving or whatever your doing where u can’t video call, but u can voice call.. that is why there are options..

    • Yourmom

      Hey fanboi, last time I checked pretty much ALL video apps can disable video. Thereby becoming voice only. Just sayin.

    • johentie

      thanks for clarifying.. and i’m not a fanboi.. as i have all device and love them all in different ways..iphone5, N4, S3 and Z10..

    • Day trader

      Typically normal people love living things, not electronics. Shame on you.

    • johentie

      but even still .. BBM has stereo audio for their video and voice calls so it’s 100% clearer then on Tango and the video quality is superior as well.. tango is what i use on a daily to speak to my dad in korea.. Kakao talk has pretty good voice, but no video.. i will definitely try disabling video tonight when i use tango as this is new to me..

    • Ian’s daddy

      FaceTime has had HD audio for years. Your point?

    • Ian’s daddy

      And you’re saying you can’t do that with tango? Better check again.

  • iPlunks

    sorry, where does it says that?

    • johentie

      u are correct but money transfers only work in select markets.. ; >

  • J. W.

    Meanwhile, no announced plans for a Windows Phone app…which is understandable.

    • Eddisonlane

      How is that understandable?, WP is a gorgeous Platform.

    • J. W.

      The BB and WP platforms are closely competing with each other (for 3rd place, as some say). Also, iOS and Android have a lot more users already, so it makes sense for Blackberry to make BBM available for those platforms first.

    • johentie

      there was an interview with Vivek who is the software portfolio dude via Crackberry and that question was asked.. he said they want to focus on iOS and Android first since thats were most of the users are.. then they will revisit the plan to get it on other platforms..

    • J. W.

      Thanks…guess there’s something to look forward to. Most of my family are BB/iOS users, with me being the only WP user.

    • Ian’s daddy

      If they’re still around that is…

  • johentie

    so for those that say whatsapp or any other messaging platform is as good as BBM.. here is a list of features that BB users can do currently with BBM.. i am not sure if all the features will be ported to ios and android but this should clear some confusion as to why BBM is so superior..

    1) messaging
    2) voice calls
    3) video calls
    4) screen share
    5) groups up to 30 people and share pictures, tasks, lists, integration to calendar, you can add people from the group to your list, and you don’t have to know everyone in the group.. it’s anonymous group that u add via PIN or Barcode.
    6) a social aspect like BBM channels, where you can open a chat with the channel owner
    7) integrations to GAMES where u can play people on your BBM list
    8) integrates to your media library
    9) instant fast reliable delivery
    10) animated GIFS as avatars
    11) broadcast messaging to all members of your list
    12) does not require your phone number to activate it
    13) choosing who you want to add to your contact list and not adding every friggin person on in your contacts to the application
    14) money transferring in certain markets
    15) you can delete people off your list and their list.. so they have no way of contacting you (i don’t know how people will be added if ios and android don’t have PIN numbers.. unless there is a unique identifier attached to your BBM app. or maybe by email address, but that would make this point invalid to annoymousness (if that’s a word)).
    16) you can add people via NFC Tap, Barcode scan or pin invite.

  • iPlunks

    no, no…how is BBM cross platform at the moment. It has yet to come out and do you really think BBM video, share etc is going to be on iOS and android

    • johentie

      yes the CEO at Blackberry Live said those features will be rolled out over the year after it’s initial release in the summer…

  • Ian’s daddy

    Trivial my dear. Trivial. Any vendor can comply with standards and make adjustment if needed, to work their way into the security theatre. It just takes a few bucks which all the big players have in droves. The funny part is that even without that approval, a LOT of apple product has made it way into law enforcement, DEA, ATF, border security, etc. Apple itself hasn’t even bothered to invest in that market with their products, and they’re still being used everywhere.

  • Nelcy

    Gr8 expectations for android users no 2ndry cell needed for bbm. ;-)