After listening to two days of presentations at BlackBerry World last week, one message resonated clearly as being at the core of RIM’s strategy: BlackBerry Messenger (BBM). BBM was being positioned as the major USP for RIM devices and that it is more than just an instant-messaging platform. BBM for example could be a way to send credit to your son or daughter as one of the presenters said during BlackBerry World so it could turn out to be a source of mobile commerce moving forward. To do this, RIM is working with third-party developers to see that they integrate BBM into their products. A presentation made during BlackBerry World also showed how Foursquare notifications can also be sent via BBM in the update to the App that's bound to hit BlackBerry smartphones shortly.
However, you still have to wonder is BMM enough of a differentiator? When asked about this, some RIM employee’s retorted that there is no real competitor for them as the other platforms are all simply instant-messaging platforms while they are so much more. The stats for BBM are impressive. As per the local office for RIM, in Dubai confirmed that there are 43 million users of BBM worldwide. That's 43 million people who have some degree of loyalty to the closed network that exists on BlackBerry and who will always think twice before migrating from platform to the other because they worry about how they will manage without BBM. That's not to say there haven't been people who've moved from BlackBerry's to an iPhone or Android device, but it's always been something that most of them have thought about many times I'm sure being taking the plunge.
On any other platform, whether it be Apple's iOS, Nokia's Symbian or Google's Android, you could still switch from one platform to the other knowing that the only adjustment you'd have to make is getting used to a slightly different user interface. With BlackBerry's, it means abandoning BBM and RIM has made sure BlackBerry users have even less reason to switch by looking at this third-party integration into their BBM platform.
Having said all of this though, it still begs the question, is this enough? This didn’t convince many of us in the room at BlackBerry World and left us to wonder when will RIM wake up and smell the coffee? It could be a case that until we don't see the benefits of these third party apps integrated with BBM, we may not understand the benefits fully but there seems to be a clear over-reliance on BBM. With other messaging platforms like WhatsApp that are cross-platform, many of the features that we’ve seen in BBM are starting to appear in it like Group Chat or sharing pictures. There is still some way left for WhatsApp and other messaging platforms to go to replicate BBM entirely but surely it has to be a question of time until this can remain a distinguishing factor for RIM. If an App developer like Foursquare can integrate their App to work with BBM, what is there to stop them for example in developing an App that also works with WhatsApp?
We've seen the same thing with Apps that were initially designed in the social media age that we now live in. Many plug-ins that you could download allowed you to share your experiences online via e-mail, but then grew to include sharing them on other platforms like digg or del.icio.us before they eventually moved onto sharing them via Facebook and Twitter.
When BlackBerry World 2012 rolls around, it’ll be interesting to see what RIM has to say and if BBM has done enough to keep RIM ahead of the game. One thing is for sure, the mobile industry will probably look very different to the industry as we see it today with all the rapid technological innovations we're seeing. RIM at the moment looks like they're not slowing down and neither is any other mobile brand but we know, somewhere down the line, someone has to give way and at the moment, it doesn't seem entirely clear, who will or will not succeed in the long term.
Coming up on this blog, we'll do a review of the BlackBerry PlayBook but we'll give the BlackBerry news a break for a couple of days before we proceed with that story. Thanks for reading along if you've kept up with out BlackBerry World wrap-up over the last three days. I know the non-BlackBerry fans will be breathing a sigh of relief as this is all we've been talking about for the last one week but for an event as large as this, we had to make sure it got the coverage it deserved.
Posted By: Ashish Panjabi, Chief Operating Officer, Jacky's Electronics