Long before iMessage, there was BlackBerry Messenger (BBM). In fact, hardcore BlackBerry users relied on the service to communicate with other BlackBerry users all over the world, bypassing text messaging fees.
The problem was, it only works BlackBerry-to-BlackBerry. Now, the company is rolling out BBM to multiple platforms. Starting this summer, BBM will become available for Apple's iOS and Google's Android devices.
"For BlackBerry, messaging and collaboration are inseparable from the mobile experience, and the time is definitely right for BBM to become a multi-platform mobile service," said Andrew Bocking, executive vice president of Software Product Management and Ecosystem at BlackBerry. "BBM has always been one of the most engaging services for BlackBerry customers, enabling them to easily connect while maintaining a valued level of personal privacy."
What to Expect
BBM already boasts more than 60 million monthly active users and more than 51 million daily active users who are connecting with friends or colleagues an average of one and a half hours every day.
According to BlackBerry, BBM users send and receive more than 10 billion messages each day. That's nearly twice as many messages per user per day as compared to other mobile messaging apps. And almost half of BBM messages are read within 20 seconds of being received.
The first version of multi-platform BBM will allow iOS and Android users to tap into several features, including the immediacy of BBM chats, multi-person chats, voice note sharing, and BlackBerry Groups, where BBM users are able to set up groups of up to 30 people and share calendars, photos, and files.
BlackBerry also announced BBM Channels, a new social engagement platform within BBM that will allow customers to connect with the businesses, brands, celebrities and groups. BlackBerry plans to add support for BBM Channels as well as voice and video chatting for iOS and Android later this year.
Boon for BlackBerry?
We caught up with Michael Disabato, managing vice president of Network and Telecom at Gartner, to get his perspective on BBM broadening its horizons. He told us the move to open up BBM to other platforms makes a lot of sense.
"What used to be one of the prime activities people used mobiles for? Text messaging. What has happened to text messaging? It's decreased since more people have been using Twitter and instant messaging," Disabato said.
Indeed, Apple has circumvented the wireless carriers by routing iMessages through its iCloud service. That has further reduced the number of text messages sent directly through the carrier. By launching BBM for iOS and Android, BlackBerry is opening up more channels of communication.
"If you are not going to allow the two largest user populations to communicate for free with your BlackBerry population, you aren't going anywhere," Disabato. "This move was necessary, otherwise BBM is isolated. Now that they are opening it up to the rest of the planet, more people may actually check out the BlackBerry."