Even though the idea has been stewing in the rumor mill for years, most of us are still shocked by the announcement from BlackBerry Live
that BlackBerry Messenger will be going cross platform to iPhone and Android as a free messenger app. Now that we've had a couple weeks to let the news sink in, I'd like to tell why I think overall it's not a good idea. Don't get me wrong, there are definitely some positives about it. But I personally think the negatives outweigh the positives.
BBM Channels -
One of the biggest announcements at BlackBerry Live 2013 was BBM Channels
. For BBM Channels to become a major creature of it's own, it's going to need more users. Which is why BBM going cross-platform would logically be announced along side BBM Channels. BlackBerry wants to grow a larger user base of BBM users from the already 60 million or so, so that BBM Channels can lure in an onslaught of advertisers that will generate revenue. So the natural thing for BlackBerry to do, is to bring BBM cross-platform as a free messaging service and try and gobble up a bunch of Android and iPhone users into the fold. It's the only way BlackBerry will be able to profit off of BBM Channels.
Imagine celebrities and major brands having their own BBM Channel accounts - offering news, exclusives, deals... oh wait, that's already Twitter. So, BBM Channels will need to be able to offer something that already established social networking clients can't. BBM may eventually need to go way of the desktop computer route as well.
As part of the BETA testing program, I happen to love BBM Channels so far in it's infant stage. But what I'm most afraid for, is that it will become a spammy outlet of intrusive ads from the top bidder of shit you don't really care about. "Featured this," and "promoted that," will be pushed to your device updates with no way of opting out. Much like Facebook does by posting those annoying ads at the top of your timeline. Of course, I'm speculating worse case scenario here. We do know that Channels will have promoted content, but to the extent it can reach across BBM, we don't know that yet.
BBM becomes just another messaging app -
Currently there are already a few major messaging apps out there. Apple has iMessage which boasts over 140 million users. Others contenders are MessageMe, Facebook Messenger, Google's Hangouts, WhatsApp, and so on. WhatsApp is easily the largest and most available cross-platform messaging app with a base probably in the hundreds of millions. Can BBM being offered up free be enough incentive for users to move from what they are already using? Or will BBM just become another semi-used cross-platform messaging app for iPhone and Android users to chat with a few of their BlackBerry friends?
I believe it can become one of the top contenders, but that also leads me to my next thoughts...
BBM has been an exclusive staple for BlackBerry -
Going back to being surprised by the cross-platform announcement. It's obvious that we were surprised because no one ever really thought deep down that BlackBerry would really go through with it. We even posted an April Fools joke about it
just this last April, and everyone called bullshit on us! Check out this poll as well
that we posted awhile back ago about what you would do if BBM went to Android and iPhone? We were always told by BlackBerry that there are no plans to go cross-platform.
BBM has been a huge staple for the platform in all aspects. Giving that staple to other platforms is sort of like like giving the opposing team your best player and then expecting that player to keep playing for your side. It's a huge risk!
Coming over to BlackBerry to experience a great messaging service has always been an incentive to bring more users to BlackBerry. I'm always telling my friends with Androids and iPhones to get a BlackBerry just so they could BBM me and become part of the outstanding BlackBerry community.
Let's face it, iMessage does what it's suppose to do for iPhone users, but it lacks the community bond - as does WhatsApp. BBM is part of that glue that has been keeping Team BlackBerry together for so long. Can you imagine tapping phones with an iPhone or Android to add a new contact to your BBM? Eww, gross! Call me a fanboy or what you will, but I don't want to sing kumbaya with all the other platform's fanboys. I want to sit around the campfire and roast marshmallows with Team BlackBerry!
Is BlackBerry 10 ready? -
I for one love BlackBerry 10. For a new platform, it performs well and is on the right path to becoming something that I believe will blow our minds away. But is BlackBerry 10 established enough yet to be giving away BlackBerry Messenger to other platforms? Let's face it, iPhone and Android users aren't going to jump ship and swim over to BlackBerry just because they've discovered how great BBM is. Many of these users are already heavily invested in their platforms, be it apps or accessories. Think about it. If your milk tastes just fine, but you can also get the best milk (BBM) for free, then why buy the cow (BlackBerry)?
They aren't going to care that BBM is better socially integrated with BlackBerry 10 when the device they are already using is considered top of the line. Let the BlackBerry/QNX relationship mature a bit more, and then one day when it's more developed and ahead of the game, then let's talk about going cross-platform. But let's do it by offering free and premium versions...
The reality of the situation? -
Since BlackBerry is set on going cross-platform, the least they could do is start by offering a stripped down free version and a separate all-features-included paid version.
If BBM Channels is the direction BlackBerry wants to go, they could offer that as well in a free version. Things like sending files and pictures, ect, as well as video chat, would be features that users would need to pay for. Why not tease them over to BlackBerry? Why not at least start with that!?
I know that BlackBerry still isn't at the peak it once was. But what I'm afraid of, is that for the pursuit of a few quick bucks, or worse, that BBM has been bought out by a 3rd party, that the uniqueness of the platform will slowly wilt away. BBM going cross-platform is the start of that fragmentation in my opinion. Call me a skeptic, but I'm getting that gut feeling that BBM has been sold out and we are suppose to sit around idle thinking that it's a great idea just because we are told so. But what do I know? I'm just a man.
There is obviously more to this conversation that can be said, but it would take me several more pages just to posit every scenario in just one article. So, leave us your comments below and we can discuss. I'd like to hear your opinions!