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BBM On iOS, Android: A Missed Call?

India, May 15 -- Before the age of Android, people loved to flaunt their 'BlackBerrys'. Owning a BlackBerry smartphone was once a status symbol. Employees, who got a company BlackBerry, felt they were important to their organisation. So, what was it that people loved to flaunt in their BlackBerry smartphones? There were three USPs to the phone - Emails, BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) and of course the QWERTY keypad. BBM was, or rather is, still one of the key features of BlackBerry smartphones. However, this feature will soon come to other platforms too.

BlackBerry will soon launch its BBM app on Android and iOS. However, the critical questions that need to be answered are -- Why now? Why is it trying to kill its USP after launching its BlackBerry 10 series of smartphones?

In the age of Android (the operating system has captured nearly 75 per cent of the global smartphone market), BlackBerry might attract Android (or iOS) users to use its BBM services, which were till now restricted to only BB devices. However, this comes across as a double-edged sword. With BBM services now available on other platforms, why would anyone buy a BlackBerry smartphone? This could ring serious trouble for the company's mobile devices.

BlackBerry's announcement hit its stock and shares were down 3 per cent at $15.55 on Wednesday afternoon.

Moreover, BBM is the last remaining novelty of BlackBerry devices as enterprises are no longer keen in using BlackBerry email services and are looking forward to adopt BYOD trend. Also, touchscreen mobiles running on Android or iOS killed BlackBerry's QWERTY keypad attraction. So, is it worth surrendering BBM? BlackBerry officials, however, think otherwise.

"For BlackBerry, messaging and collaboration are inseparable from the mobile experience, and 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 Andrew Bocking, Executive Vice President, Software Product Management and Ecosystem, BlackBerry.

Is this the right time to make the shift or has BlackBerry missed the bus? It could have taken this step before WhatsApp became popular. It still remains to be seen how rolling out BBM on Android and iOS, which is subject to approval by Google Play and the Apple App Store, will enable BlackBerry to make money since it is offering the services for free or without any subscription fee, unlike WhatsApp? 'In-app' advertising seems the only way remaining for BlackBerry to earn money but that will surely affect the BBM experience.

Opening BBM to other operating systems might have been a good idea a couple years back, but it might turn out that users would happily like to miss this call from BlackBerry now.

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Publication:The CTO Forum
Date:May 15, 2013
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