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There were always going to be questions around BlackBerry’s decision to open up its BBM messaging platform and some of the loudest came from the stock market.
Shares in the Canadian smartphone maker dropped four percent following CEO Thorsten Heins’ keynote at the BlackBerry Live conference yesterday.
During the keynote, Heins announced a new mid-range Qwerty phone for emerging markets, channels for BBM and the launch of BBM for iOS and Android.
While the Q5, a 3.1-inch touch and keyboard device, and BBM channels, a social networking feature within BBM, make sense, there have been questions around how wise it is for BlackBerry to port one of its most valuable products to other platforms.
While it increases the reach of the service, which currently has over 60-million monthly users, it’s unclear how BlackBerry intends to make money from the service.
“They are losing exclusivity, but counting on the fact that the BBM experience is much better than any of the other messaging apps,” Steven Li, an analyst at financial advisory company Raymond James told Bloomberg. “I’m still not sure how they monetize it.”
It’s also risky. For a long time, BBM was a major incentive for people not to make the switch over to other smartphones. It was free, made straightforward texting seem worn out in comparison, and provided a way for friends to effectively communicate with each other.
The thing is WhatsApp managed to do the same, across multiple platforms and without the need for alpha-numeric identification. Sure BBM’s added features such as voice messaging and calling over time, but its competitors have seldom been far behind.
The social aspect of BBM channels is interesting, but Tencent’s chat service WeChat has a strong hold in emerging markets, especially in a number of the Asian countries that were traditional BlackBerry strongholds.