BlackBerry Expands Messenger Service To Android, iOS Devices
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
Blackberry is making its messenger service available as a free download for Android and iOS devices beginning this weekend, meaning users will no longer need a Blackberry phone to access the service, the company confirmed on Wednesday.
“With more than a billion Android, iOS, and BlackBerry smartphones in the market, and no dominant mobile instant 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 recent blog post.
The company said BBM will be available for Android devices running Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean (Android 4.x) beginning on Saturday morning, and for iPhones running iOS 6 or iOS 7 early Sunday.
The release marks the first time that BBM, the original non-SMS-based phone messaging service, has been available on non-BlackBerry devices, and follows an earlier Wall Street Journal report stating that BlackBerry will lay off 40% of its workforce by the end of the year.
BBM has been a vital selling point for attracting and retaining customers to BlackBerry devices, which saw their popularity peak at around 80 million users in late 2012 before falling to around 70 million users today.
BlackBerry has attempted to rebrand BBM as more of a social network than a messaging service, and broadening the appeal of BBM could be a skillful way for the company to accomplish this, according to experts.
However, offering BBM on a broader range of platforms will not in and of itself generate new revenue for BlackBerry.
“It could even cost it money,” said Chris Green, principal technology analyst at Davies Murphy Group Europe, in an interview with BBC News.
“The firm is having to reinvent itself and whether that will be by focusing on software, monetizing BBM, licensing its products or joint ventures is not yet clear. At the moment it is throwing everything out there,” he said. But “this is as good a move as any,” he added.
Blackberry chief executive Thorsten Heins revealed the plan to expand BBM to additional devices at the company’s annual developer’s conference in May, calling the move a “statement of confidence” that would allow BBM to “become an independent multi-platform messaging solution.”
There are some questions over whether BlackBerry’s move is too late, considering that other cross-platform messaging apps and services, such as WhatsApp, have appeared over the past few years.
“The phone messaging market is a very crowded space at the moment, with big services like Google Hangouts, Line, WhatsApp, and even [Apple's] iMessage available,” Ben Wood, mobile analyst with research firm CCS Insight, told The Guardian.
One of BBM’s key differentiators on BlackBerry phones has been screen sharing between users, allowing the shared viewing of pictures, documents or webpages directly within the app.
BlackBerry hasn’t disclosed whether screen sharing would be available to the Android and iPhone BBM apps, but said they will support file sharing, group messaging of up to 30 friends, and the sending of voice notes.
“BBM is a very engaging messaging service that is simple to use, easy to personalize and has an immediacy that is necessary for mobile communications,” Andrew Bocking, Executive Vice President for BBM at BlackBerry, told Guardian reporter Samuel Gibbs. “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.”