Is there still room for BBM in the ever-expanding world of cross-platform messaging apps?
It’s an important question, both to BlackBerry the company and the millions of Canadians still using their devices. At one time, BBM was the seminal IM platform, and during RIM’s heyday between 2008 and 2010 it appeared unstoppable. I couldn’t avoid BBM, and was constantly hounded by friends and family to reacquire a BlackBerry for that express purpose. But as the iPhone and many Android devices slowly ate away at RIM’s market share, and the rise of WhatsApp, Kik, Facebook Messenger, Google Talk (now Hangouts) and many others eroded the limits between platforms, using BBM seemed less important.
BBM’s future success largely depends on its ability to stay relevant to the very customers that rejected RIM’s hardware over the past five years. Leaving aside the tepid response to the company’s Z10 and Q10 handsets, and barring a massive sales rush of its mid-range Q5, BlackBerry must convince, as Microsoft is trying to do, that it believes in the platforms it competes against. BBM just doesn’t need to be downloaded and discarded by millions of iOS and Android customers to be considered a success; it must flourish like WhatsApp, Line and Hike. It must be better than “good enough,” a great experience rather than a decent app.
Now that the app in beta testing, at least internally, and we’ve seen what the Android app will look like — as with Microsoft’s apps for other platforms, it will largely resemble the first-party version — the question is, does it entice you? Do you have people waiting on the other side, the lost BlackBerry users looking to rejoin the rest of the population?