After a long wait, BlackBerry Messenger is going cross-platform this weekend, with BlackBerry (formerly Research-in-Motion) announcing the release of BBM for Android on September 21 and BBM for iOS on September 22, 2013.
With this launch, BlackBerry is meeting its “summer” target cross-platform release date with a day to spare. According to the company, the apps will be released officially on Google Play and the iTunes App Store (as opposed to the limited-functionality leaked versions circulating among fans and enthusiasts as APK installers).
Tech observers actually speculated that BlackBerry might be releasing the app on September 18th, with its announced press event for that day. However, that was actually for the release of the Z30 smartphone, a bigger-than-usual device sporting a 5-inch screen. Some quarters would consider this as BlackBerry’s latest comeback effort, noting that big-screen smartphones — so-called “phablets” — have become among the hottest-selling devices for manufacturers like Samsung.
However, it is the the cross-platform release of BBM that might be the bigger news for the company, as BlackBerry struggles to make a comeback after having fast been overtaken by the iPhone and Android in the smartphone market.
BBM for Android and iOS will come with the usual features present in BlackBerry devices, sans a few functionalities that are still in the works. To wit, these are:
BBM Video and BBM Voice — IP-based video and voice calling features — will come in the near future, says the company.
Resurgence of BlackBerry as a platform?
The question now is whether the cross-platform release of BBM will signal the comeback of BlackBerry as a formidable mobile company. There is word that the Waterloo, Ontario-based firm is actually laying off a big part of its workforce in a quest to remain profitable. The company is even looking into a possible sale as a means of keeping competitive amid its struggles to retain and regain market share.
Introducing Android and iOS users to BBM might, at least, keep the brand relevant enough to those who have not been part of the recent decades’ “crackberry” culture. But how will the company now compete against the likes of LINE, WhatsApp, WeChat, Kakao Talk and even Facebook Messenger, who are gaining users by the hundreds of millions?
For instance, read-receipt and typing notifications have been a selling point for BBM when it was an exclusive feature for BlackBerry devices. The company had even gone as far as file lawsuits against app developers that used similar “read”, “delivered” and “sent” indicators on their chat apps. However, most popular mobile messaging apps today have this feature, which adds to the interactivity of text-based communications.
On top of regaining mindshare, however, BBM might just be a good way for BlackBerry to partake in the financial gains companies are now seeing from mobile chat apps. What could now be BBM’s selling point? Will it be enterprise-grade security? Will it also earn from selling premium items like stickers, games and other content?
Come September 21st, will you be among the first to download and install BBM for your mobile device?
Featured image credits: Android Central