The rumor has been going around for some time now that BBM will be heading to other platforms. We decided to revisit the topic as it was something discussed a lot at BlackBerry World and we’re still getting companies asking us about it. The problem with the rumor, is that RIM and the carriers know the real value in BBM is not as a successful messaging platform per se, but rather its value as a customer retention tool. We’ve heard carriers consistently say that BBM is the number 1 customer retention tool for BlackBerry devices, as users will purchase another BlackBerry simply to not lose those BBM contacts. So given that understanding, why would RIM want to open it up to other platforms and give those users an out? They wouldn’t; but here are a few ways they may implement.
Stripped Down Version
BlackBerry Messenger on another smartphone has to become a customer acquisition tool. RIM would only open BBM to iPhone or Android, if they thought it would help them acquire these users as customers. A stripped down version of BBM would be interesting – and an extreme case would allow iPhone and Android users to read a conversation, but not reply. That’s probably a little too extreme, and would more likely include messages such as “John is trying to send you a picture via BBM but your device is not compatible.” The more an iPhone user gets these messages the more they’ll become frustrated with their own device. This sort of frustration is a great way to drive customers. Just look at the amount of BlackBerry users that get frustrated when the latest and greatest app isn’t available for their device at launch.
BBM in Enterprise
At BlackBerry World, RIM announced a new multi-platform management solution for enterprise. The solution will incorporate secure device management for iOS, Android, and tablets all managed from convenient web-based console. RIM knows that enterprise, while predominantly BlackBerry, has a smattering of other devices on the network that can’t be ignored by IT Admins. It would be interesting to see a version of BBM that is multi-platform but only available for enterprise. This cross-platform BBM solution would allow companies that use BBM to better communicate within the organization regardless of platform.
BBM as a Paid Subscription Service
It’s not impossible that RIM could offer BBM as a paid service. Once subscribed, you could get access to the full BBM experience with a native-feeling app. The fact that it costs money doesn’t make much sense from a user perspective, but it makes a lot of sense from a high level. First, you put up a barrier for those customers looking to move from BlackBerry to Android. If they want to bring their BBM contacts with them, they have to pay RIM which gives the company a little extra money in an otherwise lost revenue opportunity. Second, if an iPhone user wants to have full access to BBM, they’ll have to pay a subscription. A year or so later when they go to upgrade their device, they may think “if I go BlackBerry, I’m saving the cost of my BBM subscription, and I was on the fence about buying one anyways.”
As RIM has pointed out before, in order to move BBM to other platforms there is an incredible amount of work that has to be done. Even in talking about moving BBM to the PC, it seemed like it wasn’t really in the cards. In the video below, skip to 4:30 to hear Mike Kirkup discuss BBM with respect to other platforms, courtesy of BerryReview.
The funny thing about this rumor is that even though it may not have been true when first mentioned, perception often becomes reality. We constantly get organizations writing to us and asking what the status of BBM for iPhone/Android is, and RIM staff are getting asked this constantly as well. Whether or not they were thinking about it before, they’re definitely thinking about it now. The question is just how it will be implemented.