Here’s the problem with BBM for Android and iPhone

BBM Android iPhone

BBM Android iPhone

BlackBerry is understandably making a big deal about the 10-million downloads of BBM for iPhone and Android it saw in the first 24 hours. That’s a massive number. Compare it with the previous unofficial record set by Angry Birds Space, which saw 10-million downloads over three days when it was released in 2012.

But, there are a few problems with the 10 million number… It doesn’t yet put BBM as a platform back into a strong growth position. The latest figures put BBM users at 61-million of BlackBerry’s total worldwide user-base of 76-million. With the additional 10-million new users, it’s up, but still nowhere close to the top three.

And those 10-million aren’t all “users” — yet. Well, technically they are, but it remains to be seen how many remain ‘active monthly users’ in a few months’ time.

Of BlackBerry’s existing BBM (active monthly) user-base — the 61-million — only 70% use it daily. That’s relatively low for such a sticky platform.

So, BlackBerry has managed to get its base to around 70-million. It needs to catapult it through 100-million to be anywhere close to a realistic competitor to the market leaders.

The current market leader, WhatsApp, has 350-million active monthly users. That’s up 50-million since August. It’s entirely possible that it’ll hit 400-million by year-end.

WeChat has 500-million registered users — of which 100-million are outside of China (at the end of August). WeChat has been boosted by the global TV ad campaign featuring football star Lionel Messi. Only half of those 500-million — around 250-million are active on a monthly basis.

Line’s also right up there, with 200-million active users out of a total of 270-million.

But it’s not just these three. There are at least a dozen messaging apps that have attracted 100-million users. Viber, Kakao, Kik, Skype, Facebook Messaging… all popular to varying degrees… some are only known/used in specific regions.

Importantly, BlackBerry needs to sustain this momentum — or at the very least make sure demand doesn’t dry up to a trickle in the coming days.

There is a major problem with the “BBM for all” strategy, though — and one which BlackBerry is surely aware of. Once BBM progressed to Android, it took away the only reason for millions of users to stay wedded to the platform.

We’ll see the rapid decline of market share in traditional BlackBerry strongholds like Indonesia in the coming quarters. Consumers are slowly being weaned off flat-rated, all-you-can-eat BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) data. This switch is quickening as data bundle prices come down, and as innovation on BlackBerry OS 7 devices stutters.

It feels like opening BBM up at this late stage is last throw of the dice type-stuff.

BBM may very well turn into a decent size business. A lot depends on how much it innovates on the platform. BBM already looks (very) dated on iOS 7 — understandable, given that it built it for iOS 6.

One can’t help thinking what would’ve happened if BlackBerry was brave enough to make this move two years ago. It would’ve been the market leader.

Releasing BBM widely at the end of 2013 is simply too late…



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