Today smartphone maker Blackberry announced that they would be releasing Blackberry Messenger (BBM), for rival smartphone platforms. The BBM app for iOS and Android is expected this summer, to the chagrin of many Blackberry fans and industry critics. There are three very good reasons why the neigh sayers are wrong.
First, many opponents of the move are quick to point out that BBM is one of Blackberry's greatest tools, and therefore something to be kept as a unique feature. This is spurious reasoning however, as the smartphone experience today hasn't been defined by a killer feature since Apple made apps popular, and had the idea copied by everyone else.
Today's smartphone consumers are looking for devices that enable them not only to communicate, but also to work and play. Before BB10, Blackberry only did the first two of those well, and the second one only because it was a great communication platform. Now boasting favourite games such as Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja, Blackberry is finally a great all rounder device. No need to keep it's killer feature exclusive when there are good reasons to send it out into the wild.
Now that Blackberry has a solid footing with its all new devices, it can focus on two important strategies - customer retention, and expansion. At first glance, making BBM cross platform may seem to go counter to a customer retention strategy. There are some customers who own a Blackberry solely for BBM. But these customers aren't the big ticket customers, enterprise customers are. And this move may be the first step in retaining those customers.
Enterprise customers pay Blackberry a lot of money to manage internal communications via Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES). With the popularity of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) endeavors, where companies allow employees to use their own phones, tablets and computers at work, Blackberry's enterprise dominance was under threat. Let's face it, most employees weren't bringing Blackberry's to work, they were bringing iPhones and Androids. With the Blackberry population eroding, why would a company bother to maintain a dying enterprise platform? Problem is, there is no viable contender as yet. So companies maintain these Blackberry servers. Making BBM available on other platforms is no doubt a move to give companies a reason to keep paying for BES and to eventually bring all other devices into the BES fold. It's also a shot across the bow of the likes of Microsoft and Apple who have been gunning for the mobile enterprise market.
The third imperative for releasing BBM into the wild is cool factor. Imagine how much press and free advertising Blackberry will get when BBM becomes the number one app in the Apple App Store and the Google Play store. Blackberry will have premium advertising space on the two most popular smartphones in the market. And there is nothing either Apple or Google can do about it. What better way to expand than to lure your competitors customers right from their devices?
Making BBM cross platform is Blackberry's boldest move yet. It shows that the company is thinking in the long term, and is confident that it has a position of strength from which to move back to dominance.