BlackBerry Messenger will be available on iOS and Android devices this summer. Aside from this year's April's Fool joke, I never thought I'd actually be writing that as a fact. So much so, I was even called out on it for a tweet I wrote over a year ago about BBM and cross platforms. Alas, it's a reality.
This announcement was as polarizing as any. I don't think I've ever seen so many people divided on one issue in my time covering BlackBerry, and truthfully it's taken a couple of days to be able to figure out which side of the fence I'm on (if you haven't already voted in our BBOS BBM poll, do it!).
BBM has been an exclusive of the BlackBerry platform for a little under 8 years. Pretty much everyone that has had a BlackBerry smartphone has used BBM at one point or another. For those of us that have been with BlackBerry exclusively over the years, BlackBerry Messenger has been one of those things we could always be proud of as being completely superior to all other similar services.
Then came BlackBerry 10.
BBM isn't the only thing BlackBerry has to offer
With the new Z10 and Q10 devices, and the operating system that powers them, BlackBerry has given its users a flurry of new features and reasons to be proud of. Contrary to popular opinion, BBM is no longer the only thing that BlackBerry has over its competitors.
While the iPhone and Android devices will get BBM, they will not be getting the extreme BBM/Share integration that Hub brings into the fold. They also won't have access to the BlackBerry 10 virtual keyboard that is simply the best in the industry. BBM won't give them access to peek, flow or the multi-tasking abilities that are powered by BlackBerry 10.
What BBM will give them is a taste of what BlackBerry 10 has to offer; a big taste, nonetheless.
BBM Channels debuted dictated the time
BlackBerry saw a huge opportunity to generate some revenue with BBM Channels. To convince brands to invest in BBM Channels, and thus make some money, BlackBerry had to open BBM to other platforms. Having BBM go from 60 million users to who knows how many million more, undoubtedly opens huge marketing doors for brands and companies alike.
This is likely one of the most important reasons to take into account for why this decision to bring BBM across to the iPhone and Android was taken now. Ideally, you would think it would be better to give BlackBerry 10 more time to mature and gain traction before sharing its biggest app with the competition, but apparently BlackBerry execs have been convinced otherwise by what they've seen in terms of sales so far, and are not worried about losing customers because of all the BlackBerry 10 has to offer (see above).
BBM will be huge on the iPhone and Android
Think of BBM as a brand new messaging app about to debut in the iPhone's App Store and in Google Play. A messaging service that no one has ever used before, but has the features, capabilities, security and immediacy that we know and love. Add to that the rich UI that kicks WhatsApp, iMessage, and pretty much every other IM client's ass.
Who wouldn't want to try that app out?
Now, add to that the backing of 60 million users that have used it before the first day even starts, and that's what BlackBerry Messenger will be: a messaging juggernaut.
Making BBM a household name again
Like with any launch, a company has to make sure people know it is still relevant and still competing. Having "BBM" and "BBM me" return to the popular vernacular by having it be available to everyone, is a great way to get others to see BlackBerry is still alive and kicking. This, in turn, could spell more sales for BlackBerry down the road as well.
BlackBerry has definitely taken a huge risk bringing BlackBerry Messenger to other platforms. Heins is confident right now is time to do so. The payout and/or damage won't come immediately either. The summer technically hasn't even started in the northern hemisphere (June 21st), and BBM may not go cross platform until the end of September (end of summer).
We will have to see exactly how popular BBM becomes in these storefronts, how much traction BBM Channels gains, and how well BlackBerry sales hold up after the launch of BBM on the other two platforms. There are a lot of unanswered questions, and as always in this case, time will tell how good or bad of a decision this was.