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BBM is not dying, it’s BlackBerry’s secret weapon

Much has been made about BlackBerry being backed into a corner. Its device sales are “falling” (not so, it has 20-million more users today than a year ago), there are “no apps” for the platform (yet it’s the second most profitable app store), and BBM or BlackBerry Messenger is fast-becoming “irrelevant”.

Apple’s iMessage baked into iOS will “kill” BBM. Or, so say the headlines. Except it won’t.

Today, BBM has more than 50-million active users (it had 28-million just a year ago).

Having used both, it is clear that iMessage is a great replacement for SMS. This is more about Apple going after operators and their needlessly inflated charges for SMSes and other value added services than BBM.

The two are different. And you’ll only notice the subtleties after using both for a week or so.

BBM is social. iMessage isn’t.

But, that’s not to say consumers won’t look at iMessage as a possible “replacement”.

BlackBerry knows its most compelling competitive advantage is under threat. Persistent rumours abound suggesting RIM is planning on releasing BBM apps for rival platforms such as iOS and Android. Chances are high that these will make their appearance in the next few months. It will be a good thing for the platform (despite those suggesting that this removes the “final” compelling reason to use a BlackBerry).

RIM knows its secret is the deep integration of BBM into all facets of its devices. You can share anything on BBM. Pictures, links, recommend apps… BBM Music is a great example of this. This is music made social. You’re able to download 50 songs to your profile, but also have access to all the music in your BBM contact’s profiles too.

Despite its limited traction to date, there is something undeniably appealing about this idea. It needs to get a service like this to tipping point.

It opened up BBM via an API a year ago and there are some impressive implementations of this BBM Social Platform in apps today. Foursquare’s BlackBerry app has seen record downloads because of this tight social integration.

Wikitude, which we’ve seen on other platforms, brings augmented reality to the BlackBerry and the integration with your BBM contact list is astonishing.

A helluva lot depends on BlackBerry’s ability to innovate on top of the powerful BBM platform quickly. Speed is critical.

RIM knows this. The majority of sessions at this year’s DevCon were dedicated to gaming and to the BBM Social Platform.

Imagine what happens when there are some half-decent social games available for that massive installed base?

*Hilton Tarrant travelled to BlackBerry DevCon 2011 in San Francisco as a guest of Research In Motion.

Author | Hilton Tarrant: Columnist

Hilton Tarrant: Columnist
Hilton Tarrant is production editor at Moneyweb. His main focus is project management for the listed company’s local and international websites, and contributes to their strategic direction. From time-to-time, he also fills in for Alec Hogg on the SAfm Market Update with Moneyweb radio programme. In between, he covers... More
  • Interesting… but I highly doubt you’re right. Big-ups for the full disclosure at the end though, although it does put things in perspective. Personally I think BB left it till too late, and the only thing that can save them now is BBX… and even so I reckon it will be too little, waaaay too late, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see! 

    Exciting times in the mobile space!

  • Guest

    Interesting indeed and I personally think the reason RIM is gaining momentum in countries like SA is because of the SP and their exorbitant tariffs. I reckon they will still gain more users here in SA due to the SP doing & a cheaper Blackberry (8520) whereby other manufactures don’t have a cheaper alternative.

  • Anonymous

    I was completed confused as to where this powder-puff piece came from; glossing over all the issues that RIM has had over the last few weeks, conveniently ignoring their freefall in the smartphone market share, no mention of the plunging share price, omitting anything about the lack of new features or technology coming from them. 
    Then I read that last line: Hilton Tarrant travelled to BlackBerry DevCon 2011 in San Francisco as a guest of Research In Motion.
    Why not put the disclosure at the beginning of the article and save us all a whole lot of time and effort reading this nonsense?

  • Dave Perrott

    Some very interesting points being raised here, I do believe though if Blackberry doesn’t bring something incredibly innovative to the table, companies like Apple and google will slowly start eating away at their market share. They need more than just augmented reality and gaming as these technologies have been around for a while now and therefore are highly competitive. It leads blackberry down a road that Apple and others want them to take. The only way I Blackberry and it’s bbm surviving is if they take a totally new direction. These communication systems have only been running for half a decade or less now and look how incredibly diverse they have got, yet blackberry wants to head in a direction that they know will involve future competition that they probably wont be able to handle due simply to the financial dominance of the larger companies in the industry and their ability to buy out companies simply for their patents and key features. Blackberry have a competitive advantage at present and therefore a chance to take their service in any direction they want. Serious creativity and innovation is needed if they are to survive.

    Dave Perrott

  • Anonymous

    You’re taking your life into your hands there Hilton? A positive article on Blackberry? The trolls will be coming for you. You obviously don’t understand the rules tech reporting. I’ll spell them out for you:-
    No matter what RIM do, it’s Garbage.
    No matter what Apple do, it’s magical.
    If you don’t stick to these simple rules we’ll end up with a successful technology company based outside of the U.S.A. It’s every tech reporters duty to make sure that never happens.

  • paxmos

    It doesn’t ask me if the phone is unlocked (purchased from Apple unlocked) or not?..what a rip off!!!!

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