John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

BlackBerry Racks Up 20 Million New BBM Users in a Week

After a bungled launch, BlackBerry last week again began offering a cross-platform version of its BlackBerry Messenger service to iPhone and Android users, and with some success, it seems.

BlackBerry said Tuesday that BBM for iOS and Android racked up 20 million new users during its debut week. Taken together with those who use the service on BlackBerry smartphones, the company said BBM now has 80 million monthly active users.

Impressive — though, to be clear, anyone who downloaded the app and used it just once is de facto a monthly user under that metric. The real measure of success for the platform will be continued engagement. Still, not a bad initial showing for the app, and proof of BlackBerry executives’ claims of pent-up demand for BBM among iPhone and Android users.

Sadly for BlackBerry, it’s not clear that pent-up demand is worth anything.

The company hasn’t yet said how it proposes to make money from it. And, from a market-share standpoint, 80 million monthly active users leaves it a frail player in a cross-platform messaging market dominated by upstart juggernauts like WhatsApp and Line, which each boast hundreds of millions of monthly active users. Indeed, WhatsApp last week crossed the 350 million monthly active users milestone, having added 50 million since August.

Can BBM compete with rivals like that? Perhaps. WhatsApp came out of nowhere to claim success — who’s to say that BlackBerry’s cross-platform offering won’t garner similar traction? It’s starting out with an already-established user base, and it does have things like security going for it.

But, with BlackBerry actively shopping itself to any established tech firm willing to eyeball it, and Fairfax Financial working to line up the funding for its proposed $4.7 billion buyout of the company, even apparent wins like racking up 20 million new BBM users in a week seem uncertain.

Twenty million new BBM users, 80 million monthly active users. But to what end? If nothing else, BBM’s growth likely makes it a more attractive asset to a potential acquirer. So, there’s that.

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