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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.