RIM's BlackBerry Messenger under fire: How important is BBM?

RIM's BlackBerry Messenger under fire: How important is BBM?

Summary: Research in Motion's multi-front war continues and now BlackBerry Messenger (BBM)---one of the company's most defensible positions in mobile---is under fire from the likes of Apple.

SHARE:

Research in Motion's multi-front war continues and now BlackBerry Messenger (BBM)---one of the company's most defensible positions in mobile---is under fire from the likes of Apple.

Following Apple's introduction of its WWDC goodies---Mac OS X Lion, iOS 5 and iCloud---much of the sentiment swirling around RIM went from bad to worse. Why? Apple touted its iMessage, a system that allows anyone with an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch send unlimited free text messages to another iOS device. Apple's iMessage is a direct assault on BBM, which is arguably RIM's most marketable item.

Related: A look at iOS 5 (photos)

Jefferies analyst Peter Misek said:

The two mainstays of RIM's sales have been corporate email users and consumer BBM (Blackberry Messenger) users. While Apple lacks RIM's NOC/node infrastructure that allows for BBMing without a data plan with some carriers, iMessage otherwise is a direct competitor. The launch of a low-cost iPhone in the Fall targeted at prepaid and emerging markets will only further undermine RIM.

Wharton marketing professors have noted that RIM's BBM could be heavily marketed and should be the company's defining sales pitch. Instead, RIM suffers from Apple envy and doesn't play up BBM nearly enough. To its credit, RIM did outline plans to open BBM up to iOS and Android recently.

Should BBM falter, RIM will have yet another big hole to plug. Raymond James analyst Steven Li previewed RIM's first quarter, which is already known to be weak, and called it a form of water torture. Li argued that RIM could be Nokia-ed---caught in the crosshairs of the competition without new products.

Li said RIM's product portfolio has aged another three months and new devices may not appear until September. That timeline would mean RIM will miss the back-to-school selling season.

Add it up and RIM faces the following challenges:

  • Getting through 2011 until its QNX-based "superphones" allegedly save the day in 2012.
  • Defending the enterprise as consumerization takes hold.
  • Fending off Android as well as Apple's iOS.
  • Keeping margins and service revenue humming as companies look at management tools other than BlackBerry Enterprise Server.
  • Making a dent in the tablet market.
  • And now defending BBM from Apple.

Nevertheless, RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie on June 16 is likely to be as optimistic as ever even as the company reports weaker-than-expected first quarter results. What's unclear is whether the Balsillie show will have much of a believability factor.

Also:

RIM updates PlayBook with BBM, Video Chat, and Home screen bookmark shortcuts

Topics: Mobile OS, Apple, Hardware, Mobility, Operating Systems, BlackBerry

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

33 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RIM needed multiplatform BBM years ago

    If two years ago they made BBM an app for iOS, Android, WinMo/WinPho, and WebOS as they came out, and charged $2.99 a month to have a PIN, they would have been set, since a whole lot of people would consider it worth the extra $3 a month to talk to everyone else with a Blackberry (along with everyone else who thought BBM was worth $3 a month). It isn't much, but it would have gotten RIM a much better place to stand in that they could have potentially had recurring revenue from everyone who bought a competing device, while still providing incentive to own a Blackberry (BBM being free on that platform).

    There are a couple of competing programs that mimic BBM - PingChat, Kik Messenger, and LiveProfile come to mind, but despite being free, the problem is that enough people need to use them in order to justify their existence. There are pockets here and there, and people like myself who run all of them just in case, but generally SMS is simply the lowest common denominator. BBM has a solid install base that they could capitalize on, but I think iMessenger makes it impractical for them to charge for it anymore. Oh well, another opportunity lost.

    Oh...and the Torch needs to come to Verizon =)

    Joey
    voyager529
    • RE: RIM's BlackBerry Messenger under fire: How important is BBM?

      @voyager529 <br>Exactly what I have been preaching for ages.<br><br>RIM are known and loved (by security IT bods), for BES and BBM. Their phones, are neither here nor there.<br><br>RIM have flushed their business doen the toilet, by leaving BES Messaging Client app on the back-burner whilst that fannied around with Touch, QNX and Playbook.<br><br>They would sell it by the truckload, and corporate customers would also get a decent choice of phone, as to be honest as a Smartphone, a Blackberry kinda sucks
      neil.postlethwaite
  • Won't miss RIM

    My favorite BB memory, the year is 2006 and I got a brand new very cool BB, I wanted to have my music it on it and be able to play it... I get home and none of my headphones would fit!!! and the media player horrible!

    Then this magical device called iPhone came along in 2007....
    Hasam1991
    • RE: RIM's BlackBerry Messenger under fire: How important is BBM?

      @Hasam1991

      I sure will, being a major economic contributor to the Canadian economy, as well as offering some competition to all those magical devices out there. I have to agree tho, the past couple years (and I mean like 3-4 years) they realyl havent done much of anything...

      I hate Jimmy B too
      5FingerDiscount
    • RE: RIM's BlackBerry Messenger under fire: How important is BBM?

      @Hasam1991 +1. Five years ago today I got my first BB, a 8700, and wow I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. Later I hooked up to a hosted BES service and got the full corporate experience.

      I passed on the first iPhones because of no support for ActiveSync but finally junked my BB, by then a 8900, in 2009.

      The iPhone is a hugely superior package in many ways, but I do occasionally feel nostalgic for the physical keyboard.
      capeleopard
  • RE: RIM's BlackBerry Messenger under fire: How important is BBM?

    The American tech press is trying its best to kill off RIM. The Chinese government sends a big thanks and says they will be happy when all that silly data security business is a thing of the past.
    homersmith10
    • RE: RIM's BlackBerry Messenger under fire: How important is BBM?

      @homersmith10 Spot on man! People just don't seem to care about security, privacy, and customization anymore. They basically want Jobs to run and control their life.
      j28n
  • iAnything and iEverything

    On a completely different note...remember when McDonald's got the message to lighten up on the use of 'Mc' before every damn product they offer? A gentle spattering of the moniker was the order of the day. Thankfully we don't have to stand in line and say aloud: "I would like a McBurger with large McFries and a regular McSoda please. Oh, and extra McPickles and McMustard on the McBurger too please". I am more than done with Apple's use of 'i'. Not only is it becoming ridiculous (iPad, iCloud and iMessage for example) it must be becoming tedious for Apple Legal to keep clearing the way for the proprietary use of iAnything and iEverything. Time to let it go. Please! For the love of God! Question: Do Apple employees go for an iPoop in the iJohn after their ridiculously large iLunch. Probably.
    jsweeny
    • RE: RIM's BlackBerry Messenger under fire: How important is BBM?

      @jsweeny

      iLaughed...and its iTrue
      5FingerDiscount
    • RE: RIM's BlackBerry Messenger under fire: How important is BBM?

      @jsweeny Give a break, what difference does the 'i' in front of a product make. If the product is great, 'i' couldn't care less! Not saying all Apple products are great, but most are.
      bnordan2
      • The weakening of the brand

        @bnordan2

        After a while it becomes less special the more it it used for unremarkable things.
        Tim Cook
  • RIM's Future

    There aren't many bigger BlackBerry fans than myself, but I'd really like it if they would stop shooting themselves in the foot. Balsillie needs to step down at this point...
    mbond@...
    • RE: RIM's BlackBerry Messenger under fire: How important is BBM?

      @mbond@... AGREED! They had the market share and let it slip away without even putting up a fight. My company used to have only BB users until the owner switched to iPhone and now the rest are following suit.
      rsat04
  • RE: RIM's BlackBerry Messenger under fire: How important is BBM?

    Did you forget Messenger integration with Windows Phone? Not only does it work on Windows Phone, but other platforms as well.
    illegaloperation
    • RE: RIM's BlackBerry Messenger under fire: How important is BBM?

      @day2die

      Do you mean WinMo6, as WP7/Exchange integration sucks.
      neil.postlethwaite
      • RE: RIM's BlackBerry Messenger under fire: How important is BBM?

        @neil.postlethwaite@...
        I am talking about Mango. Exchange integration has been greatly improved.
        illegaloperation
  • RE: RIM's BlackBerry Messenger under fire: How important is BBM?

    <i>"...iMessage, a system that allows anyone with an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch send unlimited free text messages to another iOS device."</i>

    It's about time text messaging was detached from the carrier, but if the alternatives don't port over to competitors and to SMS proper they're going to be of limited utility.
    The One True Fnerd
  • RE: RIM's BlackBerry Messenger under fire: How important is BBM?

    One could bet that RIM is feverishly reviewing their IP vs. Apple!
    Gr8Music
  • RE: RIM's BlackBerry Messenger under fire: How important is BBM?

    BBM is stupid, and iMessenger or whatever it is is stupid and not something I would want because it has lockin. What if in the future something better comes out? All of this lock in is designed to prevent users from having ecosystem mobility...

    Granted I think the rates for SMS are exorbitant, but atleast it's universal and a standard. Neither BBM nor iMessenger are.
    snoop0x7b
  • RE: RIM's BlackBerry Messenger under fire: How important is BBM?

    How about Facebook chat and Skype..or Live messenger, Yahoo Messenger, Google.. Who cares about iMessenger or BBM. Why do all my friends need to have the same device?
    sharkboyjohn