If you ask any long-suffering BlackBerry owner why they stick with RIM’s embattled platform, they’ll probably tell you one of three things: 1) The keyboard is the best of any smartphone and they don’t like touchscreens; 2) they have to for their job; or 3) BlackBerry Messenger, a.k.a. BBM. If the latest report from BGR is correct, BlackBerry may be losing one of the legs of that tripod as BBM loses its BlackBerry exclusivity and prepares to come over to Android and iOS.
Per BGR, timing, strategy, and pricing have not been figured out, though the current plan seems to be that a BBM app would come to Android before iOS, and it could even be free.
It might seem a bit strange for RIM to want to bring the software that is responsible for keeping BlackBerry devices in the hands of countless potential defectors, but in the big picture, we think it could make sense. The company is getting very frustrated with applications like WhatsApp and Kik offering third-party experiences based on a concept RIM invented, and RIM apparently wants to own the space.
Even so … from the point of view of their smartphone business, this seems like a risk, albeit a risk that’s good for consumers.
The appeal of BBM is hard to explain to an outsider: Indeed, I had a tough time explaining it to my Geekosystem colleagues just now, who asked what made it so different from AIM or a Gchat client. Somehow, though, it’s just like, totally different. It’s fast and text message-like without requiring any fees, it goes over RIM’s networks, it cements a common bond between BlackBerry owners, and it’s about the only thing made by RIM with really good UI. There are plenty of BlackBerry holdouts who don’t need their BBs for work and can get used to touchscreens. I suspect that if this plan comes to fruition, then come the iPhone 5 announcement, the rollout of the latest killer Android phone, or even the moment this app becomes available, these people will seriously contemplate jumping ship.
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