The BlackBerry Messaging Service (BBM) represents, for many, the premier messaging service on mobile devices, thanks to its speed and ease of use. The only problem with BBM is that it has only been available on BlackBerry phones – until now, that is. BlackBerry have just announced that they are bringing their popular messaging service to Android, a move which is bound to have an impact on the instant messaging scene.
The announcement represents the first time that BlackBerry will be offering BBM for operating systems other than its own BlackBerry OS. By opening things up to Android users, BlackBerry have (potentially) significantly increased the audience for their flagship messaging service. The state of the instant messaging market is fairly competitive at the moment, however, with apps such as Whatsapp Messenger and Viber providing plenty of choice for consumers. Whatsapp especially has dominated the market recently, even in BlackBerry’s native Canada, and frequently features in global ‘Top ten paid apps’ lists.
This presents something of a challenge for BlackBerry, as they could end up facing a ‘Google+’-type situation. When Google+ was first launched, there was great excitement and hype about this new social media platform that was expected to dethrone Facebook. Yet, while Google+ can by no means be considered a failure, it by and large did not induce the mass migration it was expected to, mostly because it did not offer any significant benefit over its competitor. BlackBerry must ensure that there is sufficient incentive for people already using a different messaging service to switch to BBM.
Thankfully, BBM has a few things going for it that should help in this regard. BlackBerry’s brand reputation is strong when it comes to messaging, and on top of this, BBM is more fully featured than its competitors, offering features such as screen sharing that are not offered by others. The latest BlackBerry 10 range of phones will also allow for video calling over the BBM service, and if this feature makes the transition to the Android version, BlackBerry will have a very strong case for converting users of other services.
Whatever the competition from other messaging apps, though, it is arguably the right time for BlackBerry to be making this move, considering the recent decline in traditional SMS messaging. SMS has been steadily decreasing in popularity over the last few years, precisely because of the free messaging alternatives offered by companies like BlackBerry. With more and more people switching from SMS to Internet-based messaging services, it’s perhaps a wise decision for BlackBerry to throw their hat in at this point rather than wait until somebody else establishes a monopoly.
BlackBerry Messenger is scheduled to be released for Android this summer, and if it can provide the same reliability and functionality on Android that it does on its native OS, it would not be at all surprising to see it make a significant impact on the messaging market.