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back to article The 'experts' who never see BBM will never understand RIM

Written off by pundits and the markets, barely a day goes by without a fresh requiem for RIM. A recent example comes from Jean-Louis Gassee in Saving Private RIM. It’s a good analysis - you never get anything less from Gassee - but astonishingly BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) barely gets a mention. Of all RIM’s assets, the value of …

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Anonymous Coward

Whats BBM?

First time I've ever heard of it.

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Re: Whats BBM?

BlackBerry Messenger

It is THE reason why teenagers in the UK prefer BB over any other smartphone. A bit like a cross between SMS and Twitter but it doesn't cost them to use so they can message their friends as much as they like (cost is part of the monthly tarrif).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Whats BBM?

And here I thought it was Big Bowel Movement...

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BBM is just an application

BBM is just an application, it could be rewritten for any platform. Imaging an Android-based BlackBerry with all the nice features from traditional BlackBerry handsets such as BBM and decent email support plus all the good bits from Android. Or if you really want to think left field, then why not port it all to Windows Phone 8? That would be a game changer.

RIM though seem wedded to the dead-end move to the BlackBerry 10 OS. We don't need another mobile OS, and by 2013 (or whenever it finally comes it) it will be a complete irrelevance.

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Re: BBM is just an application

Google Talk is on every Android. Imagine if it had the functionality of BBM: read notifications, file sending, photo sharing, maybe even screen sharing. It already does voice and video calls better than Skype, especially as it's now essentially G+ Hangouts so does video conferencing.

And yet, Google don't seem to care about it. It really, really could be an iPhone killer.

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Re: BBM is just an application

"BBM is just an application, it could be rewritten for any platform."

Hmmm, seems that you know nothing of the inner workings of BlackBerry... To exactly replicate BBM on another mobile platform you'd have to replicate their push, identity, and encryption systems. That would be exceedingly difficult on any other platform. Oh, and it's not just BBM that uses these things; they underpin pretty much everything else that's good on a blackberry, especially the push notifications for email, twitter, Facebook, skype, etc.

The reason why these things are battery killers and data slurpers on other mobile platforms is because they can't do push properly.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: BBM is just an application

"The reason why these things are battery killers and data slurpers on other mobile platforms is because they can't do push properly."

The reason why these things are battery kilelrs and data slurpers on other mobile platforms is because they *ARE NOT ALLOWED TO DO PUSH PROPERLY* because of stupid copyright/patent laws.

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Re: BBM is just an application

Actually, we do. iOS and Android are still built on server foundations with a lot of stuff missing, their userland multitasking isn't brilliant, and they are totally designed around making money from flogging "apps". As the number of these increases the value asymptotes to zero, so at some point the developers (most of whom make no money) will lose interest. They are basically dum (for suits and Americans) and dee (for everybody else).

BB10 is based on a real embedded systems platform (more than just an OS) with very efficient multitasking. It is a natural fit with the entire BBM infrastructure, but also with extension into other appliances like cars and smart homes.

I'm disappointed that it is taking so long - I started and then wound up a small BB development operation because it was going to lose too much cash - but the change is more like Apple's move from OS 9 to Unix at a time when Windows was clearly running out of steam. At the time a lot of people thought Apple would never make Unix a successful desktop operating system, and Microsofties were going around briefing that OS X was based on a server platform that would be destroyed by Windows Server.

Anybody who has bothered to spend time with the Playbook alongside iOS and Android knows that RIM has a very sound foundation if they can just stop their eccentric business practices and focus on making it work properly.

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Anonymous Coward

BBM for Android/iPhone/Windows/Linux?

I'm sure BBM is absolutely wonderful, but until there are clients for all other OSs, it's a bit liking saying that you can only make calls to other iPhones from your iPhone, or that users on Three can't call Orange or BT landlines etc. i.e. pretty limited.

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Re: BBM for Android/iPhone/Windows/Linux?

There are enough people already on Blackberry Messenger for teenagers to specifically chose a Blackberry as their phone so they can keep in touch with their friends.

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Boffin

Re: BBM for Android/iPhone/Windows/Linux?

I teach in an FE College. At least two of my students have a couple of phones: one posh one and one battered old Blackberry. The latter is specifically for BBM. The former is an iPhone 4 series in one case and some big slab thing in the other.

RIM own teenagers in the UK certainly, but how do you make money out of that without spoiling it? Is £5 month (but often less with bundles) x the number of teenagers give enough turnover?

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Boffin

Re: BBM for Android/iPhone/Windows/Linux?

"....but how do you make money out of that without spoiling it?...." As I understand it, the BBM tech is built into the same backend as BIS, i.e. centralised Blackberry servers. BB then sells access to those services as a bundle to the carriers when they take out a BB franchise. BB can sell the handsets cheap and then make the cash back from the monthly charges it gets from the carriers for every BB user that pays that BB charge as part of their contract. The attraction to the carriers is that they don't have to manage much infrastructure as BB is taking care of it in the background, so it's a relatively low-cost of entry to become a BB franchise partner. If you compare this to say the WinPhone or Android options, the carriers have to manage a lot of their own infrastructure to provide WinPhone or Android services.

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Devil

Is BBM really that important?

WhatsApp works, is cheap enough (free the first year, free forever for iPhone the last time I looked), and is mutiplatform. It has no security whatsoever and depending on the platform it hammers the battery and/or hogs the memory but who really cares? It's good enough.

(Icon is devil's advocate.)

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Re: Is BBM really that important?

There is plenty of twitter/facebook clones too - yet you don't see them doing the massive numbers either;

Same with BBM - its not that its the _only_ one; its the most popular one.

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Re: WhatsApp works

WhatsApp came bundled on my Android phone and it doesn't work. I've tried to get it running a couple of times because my daughter suggested it but got nowhere with it. That's not what I call good enough...

BBM just works.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: WhatsApp works

At least with my circle of friends and acquaintances in Germany, Spain, and the UK, it is absolutely assumed that you have WhatsApp. If you don't, people you meet will be annoyed at you.

Even my landlady who must be in her early 60s has an Android phone with WhatsApp and uses it to message me (too) frequently.

I don't know what's going on with your phone but I know WhatsApp can work on Android phones and seems to work very well. That said, most people I know have it for iPhone (in which case it doesn't use any unnecessary battery power since it notifies you of new messages via Apple's notification system).

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Re: WhatsApp works

I've deliberately not installed WhatsApp, I find that imposing a cost barrier raises the quality of the messages that I do receive. That and privacy but I've given up privacy crusading these days and when asked why I don't have WhatsApp I just say the phone wouldn't last a day.

But I can't say I've heard of people having problems with WhatsApp, other than them configuring it wrong and letting it slurp data when they don't want it to, using up the battery, and hogging memory (LeStartStop will properly close it down on Nokias).

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Stop

Re: Re: WhatsApp works

"......If you don't, people you meet will be annoyed at you....." I'm glad I don't know you or your friends then. I use a BB for work and Android for personal phones, and in my opinion WhatsApp is a battery-killing piece of failware. It s one of the first apps I advise people worried about battery life to take off their Android devices, and none of them seem to miss it.

As regards BBM, I actually don't use it much (no riots to organise) but I do quite often use M$ Messenger on my BB so I can talk to Windows users. If BB gave BBM away as a free app to Windows users it could be massive, but that would mean using it as a loss-leader (Messenger is free) and I'm not sure how that would make BB any money UNLESS they sold the tech to M$ to bundle into the next gen Messenger, and I'm not sure M$ sees the need.

The only attraction any Apple device holds for me would be that the iStore idea supposedly means I get screened, quality apps from a protected source, but events and Apple's "who-gives-a-monkey" response have blown a hole in that (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38133471/ns/technology_and_science-tech_and_gadgets/t/apple-says-itunes-store-hack-damage-minimal/#.UCvNAKPW2ZQ).

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Qwerty

Their hardware is excellent. E-mail and text using a qwerty keyboard is brilliant and I just wish there was a wider choice of Android handsets that had the same form factor. I just don't get the obsession with full touchscreens.

I was considering a Blackberry after my HTC Desire finally broke down as I missed the speed of messaging I could get from the qwerty kayboards of my old work BB and my old Sony Ericcsson P1i. But there are 3 things stopping me from choosing Blackberry OS: 1) Inability to setup an e-mail account without routing it through Blackberry's servers (I don't want push mail all the time, I want to be in charge of my battery and data usage) 2) No native direct support for CalDAV and iCal calendars, 3) No native support for CardDAV address books. From mucking around with my partner's new BB it seems they really want you to set up a BB ID to do anything and also install the (probably massively bloated) software on your computer. I don't want that.

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Re: Qwerty

You are living in the past - some of their keyboards are now dreadful - the base model curves in particular.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Qwerty

I too moved to a Blackberry (a Pearl) from a SE P1i. The hardware is pretty good (though the screen picks up scratches too easily), and I too prefer the form factor, but the platform is flaky. Too often it just reboots. The browser's starting to struggle with fancy websites (maybe that's the webbies' fault rather than RIM?). You DO need to sign up for the BB backend to do email and web access properly, but then the email is fantastic - I get messages on my phone BEFORE they arrive in Outlook!

Oh and I've never used BBM. But then I'm in my forties :-D

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Re: Qwerty

I'm 40+ and I do use BBM; not as a "social platform" but rather as "better text".

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Re: Qwerty

I switched to a Blackberry Curve after two Android phones. I love it. Brilliant for what the majority of my mobile use consists of: email, BBM (now I have it) and text. Responsive with great battery life. The UI is very efficient for what I use it for. The most satisfying mobile phone experience I have had for years.

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Anonymous Coward

But is there any loyalty?

BB's may have some following due to BBM, but I would argue that most BBM users will happily switch to the next social platform of choice.

Generalising from the very limited exposure I have had to BBM users, they are generally teenagers or early twentysomethings who want an iPhone but can only afford a BB or low end Android phone. There friends have BB's so that's what influences their decisions. As they make more money, they get a better phone and it is typically an iPhone or Android device.

As "low end" Android phones become more powerful (i.e. multi-core CPU's and decent amounts of RAM and storage), I don't see BB keeping up regardless of BBM or any other current software offering.

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Re: But is there any loyalty?

I have a BB. I really wanted a good nokia but got tired of waiting. Would have settled for Android if I had to but glad I didn't have to.

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Happy

Truth

BBM is massive and I don't have a Blackberry, but every (black) school kid on my bus does. They love it.

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Anecdotally...

To be honest, we can sit here and argue the toss about which OS is better and why would we need the BlackBerry OS, and the limited nature of it, and apps for other platforms which do almost as well. It doesn't make any difference at the end of the day.

In my office, 9 people have bought mobiles for their kids* (aged between 9 and 15) and have given them free choice (within certain price constraints). All have gone for some variant of BlackBerry so they can have BBM.

Does this make sense? No. Do I even pretend to understand it? No. But then I don't think twitter makes sense either, and look how that's gone.

RIM potentially have a very bright future. If they can keep hold of this user base and keep the company running long enough, in the next 10 years they are suddenly going to have a large adult user base to move forward with.

*I know, I know. This is not a representative result set. This is (probably) not indicative of the wider population. This could not be classed as even remotely scientific. I refer you to my title.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Anecdotally...

The problem is, those same kids will grow out of BBM around the same time that they grow out branded sportswear as a wardrobe staple, and each successive cohort is less wedded to the platform, as it's no longer the only game in town.

Erosion, it's not fast, but it's hard to argue with.

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Re: Anecdotally...

My sons chucked their IPhones after 9 months to get back BBM functionality. They wanted something that was robust instead of chic.

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Alert

Re: Anecdotally...

I'm fifty something and me, my wife, our twenty one year old daughter and most of our friends use bbm. Why? Because it is the only texting app that is always on and logged in whenever the phone is on and also gives you instant delivered and read status. Whatsapp and any others like it that I've tried are just crap!

Some people just want a good communication device with good battery life and could care less about the miriad of apps other phones can run

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Facepalm

£5 per month

So charge £7.50 per month on other platforms and get a fully fledged social network going. One that actually makes money without advertising, image that. The market size in cross platform apps is massive for this.

How can this even be a difficult decision for the CEO? The HW side is now loss making, the OS no longer has any security USPs over Android or iOS. If this is their best app why not try using it to make actual cash from?

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Re: £5 per month

@Hamsternet, just goes to show how little you know about how RIM do push notifications and security (ie the things that make BBM work really well). Android, WinPhone and iOS just don't provide the right facilities.

Putting BBM on anything else would be like trying to get a petrol car to run on diesel blended with stale cat's pies.

Also I suggest you check up on the FIPs security rating of Android and iOS before saying that they're as good as BB OS.

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Joke

Re: £5 per month

Of all available pies, stale cat is my favourite.

"Putting BBM on anything else would be like trying to get a petrol car to run on diesel blended with stale cat's pies."

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Sony CLIÉ

Classic - PEG NZ90

http://a.img-dpreview.com/news/0301/sonycliebig.jpg

THIS is what a gadget should look like... more buttons, sliders, knobs and swivelly bits, contained in a military-esque grey case with exposed screw-heads and rounded corners. Today we just have boring black slabs. I miss you, classic Sony!

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Re: Sony CLIÉ

i loved the clies! truly ahead of the curve, and what smartphones today are based on. i loved the look of the nz90, really wanted one, but could only afford the sj33. still a beast at the time.

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Anonymous Coward

RIM really, really don't want the punters' money

My son finally migrated off his Blackberry onto an iPhone. He had been glued to BBM for years paying the £5/mo sub.

If RIM were to offer a £5/mo subscription based App that did all that BBM does and allows logging onto one's BBM account, he and a lot of mates who migrated to Android etc would instantly sign up. If BBM were to become completely cross-platform it would be a killer app to rival Facebook's importance.

Pity that for IOS, Apple would get 30% of the sub though, not to mention that the Apple App compliance issues might kill the idea stone dead anyway.

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Re: RIM really, really don't want the punters' money

But as I said elsewhere, a prerequisite for that would be RIM admitting that software and services is where it's at and ditching their hardware business. Imagine what BB handset sales would look like if their few "killer apps" were also available on other platforms.

One thing that history teaches us in this business is that companies that have grown up in hardware have some sort of superiority complex about it and see moving purely to "soft" as failure. They probably will end up doing exactly this under a slightly different name, divested of their thoroughly bust and unwanted hardware arm, when emerging from bankruptcy in a few years' time.

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Re: RIM really, really don't want the punters' money

"But as I said elsewhere, a prerequisite for that would be RIM admitting that software and services is where it's at"

I think this is pretty close to where RIM is right now, admitting publicly that OS is one thing they want to hold on to. Although frankly I bought into BB only because of hardware and am happy with it; I especially like the keyboard (Bold, not Curve) !

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Re: RIM really, really don't want the punters' money

"One thing that history teaches us in this business is that companies that have grown up in hardware have some sort of superiority complex about it and see moving purely to "soft" as failure."

Often, it IS a failure (BeBox/BeOS, anyone?). NeXTSTEP arguably continues to exist in some form (well, kind of, anyway) because it started out with a hardware maker, floundered as software for a while, then got picked up by a hardware maker. (I say arguably because today's Mac OS X bears little resemblance to NeXTSTEP/OPENSTEP, but it's certainly the genetic successor to it.)

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Present consumer don't always

The problem with assuming that teenage BBM consumers will mature into adult BBM consumers ignores the fact that teenagers covet BBM because it allows them free and unlimited communication with their peers when such communication is still controlled, to an extent, by other factors (parents, finances, school etc.).

As they mature, leave school, get jobs etc., their needs inevitably become more sophisticated and can no longer be satisfied by a single, narrow tool like BBM. In parallel with this, their purchasing power leaps ahead and the USPs of BBM (cheap and ubiquitous) is no longer such a driver as their social lives evolve into multiple circles which will probably not revolve around inane BBM chat, and they have access to a variety of devices and platforms.

Like Rameses Niblick III and others, I’ve watched in bemusement as colleagues have been asked to buy their teenagers BlackBerrys for Xmas etc., except the ones I’ve spoken to exhibit strong envy for the much sexier iOS/Android devices and in at least a few cases these BB has been swapped for low-end Android or iPhones models in the last 18 months.

BBM has been a feature of the teen landscape for a few years now so if we were expecting BBM to retain customers once they leave school then we should now be seeing those in their early 20s still clinging to their BBs. In my office at least this isn’t the case; as soon as they can afford it, all young thrusters bag an iPhone or Galaxy SIII and never look back.

RIM have (had?) a windows to leverage (urgh) their dominance of the teen market with BBM, but I fear that evolution of their OS/devices will not allow them to keep pace with the alternatives (and their far more advanced services) and eventually the pull away from BB will become so strong that the BBM addicts will desert in droves.

I predict that if RIM don’t do anything, or pursue the wrong strategy, then when the end comes it will come swiftly.

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Re: Present consumer don't always

Wise words.

Our 11 year old 'tweenager' was given my old BB a few weeks ago when he left primary school. Every kid in his old class is on BBM, without exception. Like the man says, it's unlimited P2P communication, now matter how inane, and they simply love it.

The young 'uns love for BBM is rarely, if ever, mentioned by the dull men in dull suits when discussing RIM.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Present consumer don't always

"The young 'uns love for BBM is rarely, if ever, mentioned by the dull men in dull suits when discussing RIM."

Thats cause the dull men in dull suites have iPhone, dull.

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Anonymous Coward

Eh?

This is a slightly bewildered article. Given the death of the crackberry platform, it's not clear what would be in it for Sony, who are only just finding their feet on Android, which.. you know, isn't tanking quite as hard.

Blackberry is slowly bleeding users anyway, there is a sort of dissatisfaction energy leap that people need to hit to leave the platform despite liking BBM, and going iOS or Android, but even the technologically incompetent are hitting it more and more now. Teenagers, in particular, are notoriously fickle, and smartphones with cheaper data contracts could conceivably offer access to a better service with little or no warning.

The userbase of BBM is degrading in quality as well as quantity, it is becoming quite ghetto. It has a legacy userbase as a pocket social network, but in this New Fangled age, nothing is sacrosanct. It's like "bebo in my pocket", and thus somewhat vulnerable to a better offer coming along out of nowhere. It's not rocket surgery.

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Re: Eh?

"Bebo in my pocket"

Nailed it.

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What about the rest of the planet?

The popularity of BBM with the UK kids seems assured. But what to the kids in the rest of the world like to use? Being one of those that has no idea what the yoof of today are up to, I have no idea about BBMs ubiquity, but do feel a little sceptical that RIM have the market sown up in every country that their rivals operate.

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Childcatcher

Re: What about the rest of the planet?

The kids are down wit teh BBM in Spain as well. The rest have something more a little more grown up.

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Anonymous Coward

I just posted in another thread about comparing Apple 1997 to RIM now, so why aren't I some overpaid industry expert?

Honestly, why people get paid for opinions I don't know. As someone once said, opinions are like arseholes..

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Whatsapp

Whatsapp, with a little thought could easily take over from BBM.

1. If it had the ability to register BB pins.

2. If it forwarded messages to a registered email address when offline

3. If it had the ability to link accounts.

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Coat

I switched ...

... from a BB Storm to an Android Galaxy about a year ago, and I still miss BBM. It just 'works',* I can put it no better than that.

* occasional outage excepted, of course - before some smartarse feels compelled to point this out.

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When I first encountered this I asked my kids worried that they may be missing out but they knew of nobody in their school that used a BlackBerry or BBM! This seemed strange as the Register and everybody else seemed to think this was such a given.

Leads me to wonder if this is actually just in London or maybe other urban concentrations. Out here in the sticks where connectivity is less assured maybe people don't get so wedded to messenger clients and instead use the slightly less real time threaded text messages.....

A platform such as this restricted to a single device is not going to survive ultimately when there are similar applications that will work on all clients including blackberry. If they truly want to exploit this then RIM would need to expand the user base but honestly I'm not sure even that would be enough now, blackberry users on the trains in and out of the capital seem to be becoming a rarer and rarer sight.

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