Once a name associated with Smartphones, BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) struggles for market share today. Sales had been going downstream due challenges from iPhone and later, Android, and the company’s inability to respond in time to the rapidly changing smartphone market.
Reports have surfaced recently that BlackBerry has plans for spinning off its BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service into a separate business. According to a report on WSJ, BBM would be operated as a subsidiary known as BBM Inc, although there are no official comments about that by BlackBerry. This report came in about two weeks after the company announced the hiring of a special committee to “explore strategic alternatives”. The team is considering alternatives ranging from partnerships to the complete sale of the company.
Spinning off BBM will help position BBM as a valuable asset ahead of a potential sale – according to the Journal. It also stated that the company has been busy in shuffling executives to the BBM team, which is looking into features ‘beyond messaging’.
BBM was BlackBerry’s killer app before the emergence of cross-platform messaging apps, which enabled BlackBerry users to connect to message each other without having to worry about monthly text message allotment by their carriers. But with the emergence of iMessage for iPhone and other cross-platform apps like Viber and WhatsApp, BBM lost popularity as it only allowed connection between BlackBerry users, which was not enough to keep people tied to BlackBerry in today’s environment. The company announced in May that it’d make BBM available to iOS and Andriod later this summer and earlier this month BlackBerry started sending out invitations for a select number of users to test the Android version of BBM.
Blackberry has just started to take requests for BBM download for iPhone and Android. Interested Android and iPhone users can be the early adopters of BBM by following this link.
As the company is struggling to survive the blow it received from of iOS and Android, the said BBM app would also face stiff competition from already established cross-platform apps like WhatsApp, Viber, and LINE Messenger.
New Entrants Leapfrogging BBM
- WhatsApp is currently serving 250 million monthly active users and is available in all known mobile platforms. WhatsApp easily identifies how many contacts use WhatsApp and adds them to the WhatsApp Contact-list – very efficient and hassle free!
- Viber crossed the 200 million registered users in May, 2013, a PC version was recently announced.
- LINE Messenger introduced users to the world of sticker-messaging, it includes very lovable stickers from Disney, Hello Kitty, etc, that made emoticons look obsolete; users can play games together and a PC version is also available.
There are no reports as to whether the cross-platform BBM will be a free app or a paid one, but the market is packed and the competition is fierce. The new BBM needs to be unique in order to gain popularity among users.
Security has always been a strong feature of BlackBerry and it has its own servers. There have not been any recent threats to the security of messaging apps like WhatApp, Viber, etc, but BlackBerry, in all its years of existence has never faced any such threats, it uses unique encryption and decryption techniques to keep data secure, which can very well become BBM’s USP.
The future is clouded for BlackBerry. Will BlackBerry be able to recapture its former glory or is it too late – only time will tell.