BBM is coming to Android, but is the writing on the wall for BlackBerry?

6 Aug 2013

BlackBerry Messaging (BBM) was one of the crucial tools that BlackBerry had up its sleeve to win back the youth market and hold back the Android and iPhone hordes. But news that BBM for Android may be forthcoming on a new Samsung device sounds like BlackBerry has given up the ghost in terms of once again dominating the smartphone business.

Instead it seems BlackBerry is content to become a mainstay in the enterprise communications space and is happy to see its apps shared out into the iOS and Android ecosystems.

Earlier this year, there was a sense that BlackBerry had gotten back into its stride with elegant new devices like the Z10 and Q10 running the BB10 operating system.

However, all has not gone as planned and it emerged recently that BlackBerry is to lay off 250 workers and has seen its mobile computing vice-president David Smith resign.

Samsung has revealed that in a “first step”, Android for BlackBerry will appear in Africa on Galaxy smartphone devices.

“BBM provides one of the best and most robust mobile messaging experiences today. BBM has always set the standard for mobile instant messaging and we are thrilled to bring this experience to Samsung customers across Africa,” said Andrew Bocking, executive vice-president BBM at BlackBerry.

“BBM is loved by people who rely on fast, trusted messaging, along with the immediacy that our delivered and read statuses bring. Samsung customers will soon join the BBM nation in its love of the ‘D’ and ‘R’ notifications.”

However, not everyone is convinced by this and there is a sense that BlackBerry may already be conceding defeat.

Keith Turnbull, chief development officer with AppSense, a provider of virtualisation and mobile security technology, had the following comment:

“The news that BBM is to appear on the Android platform suggests that the writing may be on the wall for BlackBerry as we know it. BBM was one of BlackBerry’s most popular services, however, cross-platform messaging services such as WhatsApp have stolen a considerable amount of market share. This could be an attempt by BlackBerry to hold onto remaining BBM devotees.

“BlackBerry’s greatest strength remains its popularity amongst enterprises due to a strong reputation for robust security. Recent independent research commissioned by AppSense revealed that only 12pc of UK enterprises saw BlackBerry’s as a potential security risk compared with 63pc of businesses believing that Android had a high security risk.

“The move of BlackBerry apps into the Android ecosystem suggests that RIM’s next move could well be enterprise-focused software support for other mobile platforms,” Turnbull said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years