BlackBerry Messenger on iPhone and Android: A Big Move Made Too Late?
There’s a fair bit of news coming out of BlackBerry’s BlackBerry Live 2013 keynote this morning — the unveiling of the new Q5 Qwerty phone and the first point release update of BlackBerry 10 for the Z10. But the biggest news of all concerned BlackBerry’s plans for its popular messaging platform, BlackBerry Messenger. At long last, the company is taking the service cross-platform.
Come summer, BlackBerry will release BBM as a standalone app. Initially, it will be targeted at Apple’s iOS 6 and Android Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0) and above, and will provide a basic feature set. But CEO Thorsten Heins said the company intends to flesh it out further in the months that follow.
“We’re committed to making the BBM experience on other platforms as fully featured as we can,” Heins said. “We’ll start with messaging and groups, but we’ll add voice and screen share later on. … BB10 is such a strong platform that we are confident it can become an independent messaging solution.”
A big move, far too long in coming.
Arguably, BlackBerry should have done this years ago. BBM is a tentpole feature of the company’s OS, and remains in wide use today. As Heins observed this morning, the service has about 60 million users, who send and receive some 10 billion messages every day — about half of them are read within 20 seconds of receipt. That’s a big installed base with serious engagement.
Sadly for BlackBerry, some strong cross-platform messaging solutions emerged during the years that it withheld BBM from iOS and Android. WhatsApp, which recently appeared at our D: Dive Into Mobile conference, is bigger than Twitter, which officially claims 200 million monthly active users. The company’s daily message tally: Eight billion inbound and 12 billion outbound. Then there’s Kik. And Apple’s iMessage, which, despite its problems, is pretty popular.
That’s not to say that BBM is going to have a tough time making inroads on iOS and Android, just that it would have had a far, far easier time of it a few years ago.