BlackBerry is opening up its crown jewel BBM messaging service to rivals Android and Apple smartphones this weekend. The move is a first-ever opening up of the BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service to competing platforms, allowing an estimated 60 million BlackBerry users to swap BBMs with nearly a billion Apple and Android users.
"BlackBerry still has real value as a company, and this demonstrates it," said Ramon Llamas, mobile phone team research manager with IDC. He said the BBM service is an extremely robust messaging platform with many advanced features. "This is about reach, distribution and money -- all things that will keep BlackBerry in business."
Availability of the BBM service comes on the heels of good news and bad news for BlackBerry. On Wednesday, BlackBerry released a new flagship Z30 handset that features a large 5-inch display. It also was reported Wednesday that BlackBerry was going to pink-slip up to 40 percent of its 12,700 employees.
"With more than a billion Android, iOS and BlackBerry smartphones in the market, and no dominant mobile messaging platform, this is absolutely the right time to bring BBM to Android and iPhone customers," wrote Andrew Bocking, vice president for BBM, in a company blog post.
BlackBerry says BBM Voice, BBM Video calling and the BBM Channel communities feature will not be available at launch, but will be added later. BBM will become available as a free download for Android on Saturday and become available for iPhone users the following day. Standout BBM features include:
• Ability to set status (busy/available)
• Message limits are 2,000 characters
• Instantaneous message delivery (faster than SMS)
• Supports group BBM Chats up to 30 people
• Message confirmation upon delivery
• Indicator that recipient is responding to message
• Ability to share files/photos/voice notes
• Ability to share schedules
• Broadcast Message allows messaging to all BBM contacts at once
Jeff Kagan, an Atlanta independent telecommunications analyst, said releasing BBM is a smart move for the company that needs to look to creative, new ways to generate revenue, such as licensing its mobile technology. A one-time mobile powerhouse, BlackBerry has long struggled to compete with handset maker Apple and an army of Android-based smartphones.
BlackBerry reportedly is shopping itself around, and looking to be acquired by November.
PUBLISHED SEPT. 19, 2013