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I feel BlackBerry should have opened up BBM two years ago: Ivor Soans

Updated: June 26, 2013, 4:35 PM IST
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I feel BlackBerry should have opened up BBM two years ago: Ivor Soans
Ivor Soans, managing editor, Biztech2, joined IBNLive readers on BBM coming to Android and iOS devices.

Is opening up the BBM service for other platforms a tacit acceptance of the company's defeat in the hardware part of the business? Also, what will be its impact on apps like whatsapp? Ivor Soans, managing editor, Biztech2, joined IBNLive readers for an interaction on the issue.

Q. How long do you think it will further take to actually see this happen in reality, as i do not think they will afford to lose existing corp customer atleast in India using sub 15K devices. Asked by: raj

A. BlackBerry has not announced any dates, although T-Mobile tweeted about a launch on 27 June. However, this has since been denied. Personally, I see BBM coming to Android and iOS in weeks, not months.

Q. What I have heard is that it will be a free app available on the app store, but will there be a cost involved for monthly usage or will it work like whats app for free over the internet? That would be a huge loss for the blackberry users? Asked by: ujval

A. As far as current indications go, the app will be free and usage will be free too. The only cost you would incur is on data. Something like WhatsApp, but a far superior experience if BlackBerry can get the BBM on BlackBerry experience to iOS and Android too. Incidentally, BlackBerry data plans are not necessary for BlackBerry 10 smartphones--a regular data plan is enough So, newer BlackBerry users are already used to regular data plans without the need for BlackBerry specific plans.

Q. With BBM going across platforms, which phone would you pick, an Iphone 5 or Galaxy S4 or the BB Z10? Asked by: ujval

A. I'd say the iPhone5, the Samsung Galaxy S4, and the BlackBerry Z10 are all great smartphones each with their individual advantages. For me, one of the biggest challenges is productivity and I also do a lot of typing on my smartphone. Also, browsing is important since I read a lot on my smartphone. Given that, and given the rising application numbers on BlackBerry World, the ability to port Android apps, battery life, etc, I'd choose the BlackBerry Z10 -- the soft keyboard is unbelievably good and accurate, so much so that I prefer it to a physical BlackBerry keyboard; the productivity features like BlackBerry Hub are compelling and unmatched and it has the best browser out there. Also, I don't miss too many apps that are not 'officially' available. I have Instagram, Google Maps, Flipboard, etc, already on my Z10 using the porting route, even though they are not officially available for BlackBerry 10.

Q. This move was basically to prove that blackberry has more to offer than just BBM. But then this move could completely backfire and then blackberry wouldn't have something to go back on? Is this a risk worth taking since Blackberry is already struggling? Asked by: ujval

A. Having observed and covered BlackBerry for many years now, I feel BBM as a USP was just restricted to a certain segment of users--mostly youth, who are anyway migrating to Android in droves in countries like India where at Rs 10000 you can get a great Android smartphone (specs-wise, in comparison to BlackBerry's older OS 7 smartphones). The corporate user base and business users who loved BlackBerry for e-mail, security, etc, never thought of BBM as BlackBerry's only USP. With BlackBerry 10, I believe BlackBerry has provided great differentiation from the competition and BBM matters even less. But the fact remains that mobile instant messaging usage is on the rise and everyone who has used a BlackBerry yearns for BBM when they suffer through WhatsApp and the like. I guess BlackBerry rightfully thought that since BBM was no longer a USP and to get back into the mind of former BlackBerry users who may have migrated to other platforms, it was time to take BBM cross-platform. Plus the fact that BBM is so good that it can hold its own against other mobile IM competition.

Q. What will be its impact on apps like whatsapp? Asked by: Vikas

A. The immediate impact will be minimal. WhatsApp has gained a strong user base and many are used to WhatsApp, quirks and all. Also, WhatsApp comes installed on many devices, while BBM would have to be downloaded. But if BlackBerry gets marketing right, and once older BBM users who have now switched to other mobile platforms and are now forced to use WhatsApp also install BBM (in addition to WhatsApp) and people who have never used BBM get to experience BBM, then the number of messages on WhatsApp may see a huge decline. The WhatsApp user base will remain and even rise, but usage may decline, and in the long run, if BlackBerry plays its cards right, BBM may become top dog in the mobile IM space. I say this because BBM has far superior infrastructure, has a history of getting Ds and Rs (Delivered and Read receipts) right, has screen share, video chat and more. But more than features, it's the infrastructure.

Q. Is opening up the BBM service for other platforms a tacit acceptance of the company's defeat in the hardware part of the business? Asked by: Sunil

A. Well, the company you term 'defeated' surprised the Street with profitability and no erosion in cash position in the last quarter results! Perhaps your definition of defeated is different from the one commonly understood. The truth is, with BlackBerry 10, I believe BlackBerry has provided great differentiation from the competition and BBM matters even less as a USP for BlackBerry. I feel BlackBerry should have opened up BBM two years ago and better late than never.

Q. How are we planning to connect on different platforms? Like for Whatsapp we use Mobile Number as the contact.. For BBM on Blackberry it is Blackberry PIN.. So what will be the unique identity key for BBM on cross platforms? Asked by: Rajesh Bhansali

A. I believe it will still be a PIN which will generated by the application once you install it. You might also need to sign up for a BlackBerry ID to use BBM on iOS and Android, as on BlackBerry. BBM is PIN to PIN and I doubt BlackBerry will change the basic infrastructure and the advantages it brings.

Q. Thank you for answering the previous questions. we have been comparing whats app and BBM, what about other IM apps like Hike and we chat? is it the end of the road for them? Asked by: ujval

A. I don't think you can predict death for anyone just because what is the best mobile IM app has now gone-cross platform. The Execution bit of going cross-platform must also be brilliant and is MORE IMPORTANT than the quality of service/app, itself, with marketing convincing users to try BBM, product development ensuring BBM on Android and iOS provide the same experience as on BlackBerry with similar features, etc. BBM is at 70 million users. WhatsApp is at over 250 million. And WhatsApp comes pre-installed on so many phones while BBM has to start inking those agreements now (which won't be easy). So in the short term I still see WhatsApp, Hike, we chat, etc continuing to grow fast, but if BlackBerry gets it right, in the long term BBM could become No 1.

Q. Great.. Eagerly waiting for BBM on Android, after 5yrs of BB usage I recently moved out of BB due to budget constraints to buy Z10/Q10. However have missed BBM more than anything else. Its a welcome news for all. BBM Rocks. Asked by: Rajesh Bhansali

A. Yes, BBM rocks, as anyone who has used BBM knows. I'm sure BlackBerry is hoping that itself is enough to give BBM on iOS and Android a great start.

First Published: June 26, 2013, 4:35 PM IST
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