BlackBerry Messenger on other Platforms? RIM CEO says "There is a time where this might make sense"

CrackBerry talks to Thorsten Heins
By Kevin Michaluk on 27 Jan 2012 02:15 pm EST

Part III of CrackBerry's Interview with RIM's New CEO

Continuing along in our interview series with RIM's new CEO Thorsten Heins, we asked the question that so many smartphone users have been asking for a long time now. Will we ever see BlackBerry Messenger on other Platforms? The BlackBerry Chief said "you should never rule this out" adding "there is a time where this might make sense".

The topic of cross-platform BBM has been debated often on CrackBerry. Our last poll on the subject put the community at 71% in favor of RIM putting BlackBerry Messenger onto other mobile operating systems, but with BBM being such a strong hook keeping users tied to BlackBerry it's definitely not a clear cut business case. At least we now know this is something RIM is definitely looking into.

On the hot topic of licensing out the BlackBerry OS, Heins says people should not put this into a black or white category. Heins is "open for licensing if it makes sense". Heins made it clear that he "was not hired to build a licensing company" but rather was "hired to take BlackBerry to new heights" and plans to do just that with his team.

Listen to the audio above, read the Q&A below and let us know in the comments where you weigh in on this one!

Interview Part III - Licensing and Cross Platform BBM

Kevin: There have been a lot of questions this week about whether RIM will ever license out the BlackBerry platform, and your answer has been that "we're open to discussions". Will we ever see BlackBerry Messenger on other platforms? We've have seen RIM put an Android app player onto the PlayBook. Would we ever see it go the other way? Maybe not full out licensing, but maybe pieces of BlackBerry services showing up on other platforms?

Thorsten: You should never rule this out; business is very very dynamic. It's dynamic on the device side as well as on the software side. So never say no to anything. We're constantly exploring our room to maneuver and our room to explore other businesses so I wouldn't say categorically no to it. There is a time where this might make sense, and I have a team looking into this. I'm not saying I won't license. People are again putting this in a black and white spot. I'm open for licensing if it makes sense. But it's not what I was hired for; I was not hired to build a licensing company. I was hired to take BlackBerry to new heights. And that's what I will do with my team.

Keep it locked to CrackBerry... more from RIM's new CEO will be hitting the blogs soon!

Read CrackBerry's 1st Interview with RIM's CEO

Reader comments

BlackBerry Messenger on other Platforms? RIM CEO says "There is a time where this might make sense"


Seems like he makes sense on most things. Thanks for asking these types of questions Kevin. I still have mixed emotions on this issue/question. I know for me over the last 3 years, BBM has at times been the only thing keeping me... Even right now... As much as I love my 9900, if the Samsung Galaxy had bbm - that's the phone I would be using... But that's just me.

Kevin, all these interview questions clear a lot of things for us and I feel they are going in right direction. Around the same time next year, all stories about RIM change & it will be back in business as it was few years ago..
......and first....(not really....)..

I think it make sense as long as they hold back on some functionality that will only be available with the BB phone. Otherwise it makes it easier for people to switch to other devices. Personally, I'd love it if I could chat with my kids on BBM even though they all have iPhones.

Letting competitors use one of the few features that's keeping people on BlackBerry is so dumb I can't even believe this is a real question. But then again, there are no dumb questions, only dumb people.

BlackBerry needs MORE exclusive features, not less.

If bbm is the only reason why people are staying with Blackberry then RIM is in trouble. If I were to list all of the functions that keep me with Blackberry bbm is probably last on my list. Don't get me wrong, I love it but I just love the other functions even more. BBM would go up in stock in my eyes if it was cross platform. I still think RIM could use this as a bargaining chip to gain access to official microsoft word excel and powerpoint. Just make exclusive axcess for Michrosoft and watch both companies gain from the agreement.

Does Apple let other other cellphone platforms not running iOS, use iTunes? NO
Does Apple let other cellphone platforms use iCloud? NO
Does Apple let other cellphone platforms use Siri? NO
Does Apple let other cellphone platforms use iMessage? NO
Does Apple let other cellphone platforms use Facetime? NO

......and Apple seems to be doing really good these days don't they? Exclusive features is what draws people to the brand. No Brainer.

At first I was going to disagree.with you but I'm inclined to agree with you. I don't know about exclusivity but the one stop shop has always been attractive. BlackBerry has the means to supply that as well. If they do they can move up the food chain.

Maybe it is best to keep it in house and work with other platforms on them developing a chat in which they can bridge convos from one platform to the next. IE apple I messenger communicating with bhm.

actually, blackberry devices do have siri, imessage, and facetime, just not using those names -- they have voice activation, just not with the same functionality; imessage is bbm using text message instead of data; and the playbook (and hopefully future smartphones) has video chat

Well, this is guy is no Lou Gerstner and doesn't really have a pedigree of a turn-around CEO. Will shall see; but it seems the same course and speed will put the ship under the water.

Gerstner he is not. Did some consulting (contracting) for RIM in 2010 and 2011 and met him a few times. "Nice Guy" IMHO, but not CEO material.

And while all the clowns posting here think he's the messiah, let's wait and see if shareholder value moves in the right direction.

Just the fact that you refer to others with a different opinion on this thread as "clowns" undercuts your own quite a bit I think.

Comments like this boggle the mind.

Windows Phone OS took 5 years to develop, By that measure RIM is moving at a lightning pace. Granted they were slow to react in moving to QNX, but once they had it it's been really fast.

Playbook 1.0 was just a test. I think it is fair to argue that this "prototype" should never have been released but I think prototype is the way to look at it. Soon we will have 2.0 and BB10 will be the third round all within or around 2 years. Very fast.

iOS, we don't really know how many years Apple worked on that. Likely a long time.

Android / iOS - $1.99/month access to BBM

Let's say 25 Million users. = 25M x 12 x 1.99 = $597M/year

50 Million users. = 50M x 12 x 1.99 = $1.2B/year

Not exactly chump change.

i would pay 1.99/month for BBM if i were on other devices. But i dont speak for everyone. Despite BBM being one of the best IM service, whatsapp and other instant messaging platform costs much lesser than that and available for almost all platforms. it just doesnt make sense. Unless RIM has more services planned for BBM, right now i would say no.

What i think RIM has to do now is expand their ecosystem, and i dont mean just app world, but services as well. BBM music, BB traffic, BB podcast and BB news are just a few examples that are not available in most countries. Nokia has done a brilliant job in this aspect, with Nokia Maps, drive and music.

Nooo! it took my brian so long to absorb all of the dense content in parts one and two. I'm so glad they held off on three gettting ti all at once would be information overload.


The real issue here is not iPhone, its now Android. The market place has changed structure and both Apple and Rim need to realize this. Android will take over based on the simple fact that its just an OS, open sourced, making it attractive for all companies that build just hardware. And their developement team consists of anyone who has an interest in it, possibly millions. Rim won't be able to keep up on the software side, cause they have to hire all of their software developers. Apple is riding the wave of having been the first to develope a usable touchscreen device, amazing advertising, and building supporting hardware that only works with iPhone. That free ride will come to an end eventually as Android takes complete control of the market. When you have that many minds coming up with ideas, you'll always be ahead.
That said, Rim has BBM, and with pro-active developement could make that THE form of communication everyone uses. It could replace email, text, facebook, gmail, messenger... Its their golden egg. Of course, it may already be too late, but crossplatform would be the only way to save this.

To me Android seems fragmented like Windows in the 90's. Too many competing developers.

That's one reason Apple is successful. They have unity and coherence. I think Apple is going overboard with their exclusive ecosystem. Their latest iBook textbook service is distasteful...

That's why I support RIM. They're making a great ecosystem but they seem to be more inclusive.

I think of Android more like I think of Linux. Look at all the systems that are starting to run an Android based OS.
I'm not giving up on RIM, in fact I love my 9900. But as a company I think they should take a reality check on how this industry is develoing.
If I was trying to rescue Rim, I would stop putting any resources into OS developement. I would use the existing servers to build BBM into a cross platform communication service (and I think that would take off). Perhaps even the carriers would pay the licencing to include BBM service.
I would continue to build Blackberry hardware, both touchscreen and qwerty, and utilize the Android OS.
I like my 7.1 OS, but there is nothing wrong with the latest Android systems. That on a 9900 with BBM would be awesome.
Think how fast the iMessage would fold up if BBM was available on all systems, or even all but iPhone.

Well no one needs it, but the advantages of BBM over the competitors versions are substantial when you nit pick through it. Group functuions integrate calendar, media, tasks, memo's ect. Security. Push notifications, which go along with efficient data use. Not to mention all the integrated apps already set for BBM. Some competitors have some features, but BBM has this perfected. IMO

I think it's a horrible idea to contract out the use of BBM onto other platforms only for the simple reason that BBM is among the top few reasons why someone loves their BB so much. If that person can get BBM on android or another platform, what's stopping them from switching? I know my mother would switch platforms in a heartbeat if Apple had BBM. BBM is the sole reason why she's sticking with BB....for now.

I, on the other hand, am a die hard BB fan and won't switch for any reason, but I'm thinking in terms of the majority of friends I know with other platforms.

The question Heins has to ask himself is: does RIM make its money via hardware, or software?

Are they a software company that makes hardware for their software, or a hardware company that makes software for their Hardware?

Microsoft is a software company. Apple is a hardware company. Whether to contract out BBM depends on which Heins sees RIM as.

Actually, I think you should add whether he believes that a RIM is a service provider. Remember BES (and all of its varieties) and BIS are services with a subscription cost. So the real question is does he see RIM as a hardware, software or a services company? From his answers, I believe that he believes that RIM is a combination of all three.

To be successful, I think that to be successful, RIM should keep the hardware constant between the target markets but cater the software and services to the particular market they are targeting.

On the topic of BBM being cross platform, I think that they have to make BBM very compelling for non-BB users. As it stands now, if they were to make it cross platform now, it will just be another IM client. They are going in the right direction with allowing apps to be BBM connected.

what is his definition of what makes sense? All he's really saying is, he has no idea, no vision, no plan, but he's open to suggestions...

BBM is a product of RIM's infrastructure. That same infrastructure allowed BB users to contact loved ones when the earthquakes hit parts of the US last year while other cell/mobile devices didn't work.

Giving access to BBM will give access to that infrastructure which is a LARGE reason why people enjoy the exclusive benefits of having a BB over all other devices. Their devices and infrastructure is more secure than anything else out there (IMO).

I'm NOT AT ALL in favour of offering BBM to any other platform.

It'll degrade any exclusivity that BB has over others, and like many have voiced, will make it so much easier to migrate to over devices and platforms.

Apple dominates the general consumer platform for good reason. They play on their strengths - great for entertainment and wide consumer applications. However, the last time I checked BlackBerry still DOMINATES the banking industry, government, or major corporations worldwide. Continue to play on those business strengths and appeal to consumers at that level who want those features for non commercial use. If you start to offer those features and infrastructure to other non blackberry platforms, IMO that's when the things start to fall down for RIM....

I don't want it to be cross-platform. People love exclusive blackberry features, not parodies or copies. Keep it app connected and original, exclusive to blackberry. Bbm is awesome, even though I barely use it, many many millions more use it daily and nightly or 24/7. I wouldn't want to see a great infrustructure get opened up and let loose.

BBM for blackberry.

This is a tough issue. I normally believe that RIM should keep BBM Blackberry specific. But to be honest, most all of my friends have moved to other platforms. I know very few people still using Blackberry. Would be nice to be able to BBM 'em again......

I agree to those who said that BBM should be exclusive. Common things can be shared but not strengths. By doing that they will only help improve the messaging systems of other companies. What wil RIM get in return? If is not going to be customers by giving away such a service then forget it. BTW I had the same problem when most friends moved to other platforms, even though is not the same at least I was able to include them in BBM for sms messages.

I haven't had a chance to listen to this interview yet but I noticed in a Bloomberg article he mentions both handset makers as well as personal computer makers as being interested in licensing deals.

"RIM’s new software is appealing enough that he’s been approached about licensing it, Heins said. The company has held discussions with interested handset makers and personal-computer makers, he said, declining to name them."

you guys, you guys...... dont get ahead of yourselves.......they gotta get bbm working on all of their own platforms first before can even think about android or ios.... and those other platforms have to be open to it themselves....ios prob wont be happy considering they developed imessage...

Kind of hard to say that I only keep the BlackBerry platform for BBM when all my other friends moved on to other platforms and no longer have BBM. Can't see the harm in the least…

Believe me if BBM will open up to other brands 95% of users will switch from BB to Android and Iphone. Androids are very cheap in Indonesia and gaining ground very fast. BB just has nothing fancy to offer in comparison with Android and Iphone... And seen the fact WhatsApp is nearly in use by every Indonesian why should the BBM stay the number one reason to hold on a BB?
Besides WhatsApp is still free to use, they just extended my app to use for free till July 2012...

I used to love my blackberry with a passion, but after a while I just couldn't deal with it anymore. Even the new Torch pissed me off, slow, unreliable and I just didn't get along with it.

I switched to an iPhone and I love it, the camera is amazing and I couldn't ask for a better phone (other than the tragic battery life).

The iPhone is amazing, but nothing can compare to BBM, and believe me I've tried lots. Kik, Liveprofile, Whatsapp. They're all unreliable, and it takes an age just to get a message sent through to someone.

If they would bring out BBM for the iPhone, I would definately pay for it. I don't think I would pay £5 a month for BIS (as obviously it wouldn't be that) but I would be willing to pay to have the service.

BBM should be only for BlackBerry. On this matter I don't want RIM to yield due to its integral need for one platform.

The only reason I'm still using my 9930 is because of bbm. I'm also using a galaxy nexus and it's so much better! If bbm came to Android, bye bye blackberry.

I understand some of the points from both sides of the debate but aren't most of the instant messaging systems based on the original Quantum Link technology, which eventually became AOL?

There are several instant messaging services available today that work with pretty much all the devices out there, including our BBs, so I really don't see it as an exclusive technology.

Based on that fact, I believe it would be good to open it up to other platforms.

They should worry about their blackberry 10 devices, blackberry playbook , BB OS 10 and apps
not going across platforms with bbm, maybe later