If you’ve been following the CrackBerry news lately, you’ve surely seen the promotions Samsung has been running. BBM will be arriving on Android soon, and Samsung has taken the opportunity to tell people that Galaxy owners will soon be able to download the app. They make no mention of Android in their promotion, naturally. Why would they? From their perspective it’s better to just attach the BBM brand value to their Galaxy product lineup, not Android as a whole. For the most part, customers only know what they are told or what they read.
It’s hard to imagine that Samsung really cares too much about its customers downloading BBM. But it’s easy to imagine that they see an opportunity to get legacy BBOS users to migrate to a Galaxy product without losing their beloved BBM instant messaging app.
To be honest, I think this is a smart strategy from Samsung. A huge portion of BlackBerry’s subscribers reside in places like Indonesia, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Philippines, and other emerging markets. BBM is hugely popular in these countries, yet the devices people own largely run the legacy Java-powered BBOS. The app store is pretty much bare compared to BlackBerry 10, and obviously doesn’t even come close to what’s available in Google Play, or in Samsung’s own app store.
I think it’s a no-brainer that the company needed to make BBM a cross platform app
The risk is obvious. BlackBerry could lose platform subscribers who migrate to Android, but keep using BBM. But despite this risk, I think it’s a no-brainer that the company needed to make BBM a cross platform app. They should have done it long ago, and if they had perhaps WhatsApp wouldn’t be the market leader today.
What this is going to do is force BlackBerry to compete head-on in the entire platform race, not sit back and rest on the perceived value of BBM. I think BlackBerry management is guilty of getting too comfortable with how awesome BBM is, not thinking that people would really leave it behind.
But think about the numbers. BBM has about 60 million users. Instagram hit 80 million users last August, and that was only a few months after releasing support for Android. Now that they’ve added video support, the platform is only growing. It’s not an IM platform, but the network effect is the same. Instagram is probably more important than BBM because it as way more users. I couldn’t give a sh*t about Instagram, personally, but I realize that lots of people will pick iOS or Android simply because BlackBerry doesn’t have this popular app.
Moving BBM cross platform will force BlackBerry to face a tough reality - they need to do more to convince the big names to get inside BlackBerry World ASAP. If Microsoft can do it (for many apps, but admittedly not yet for Instagram), with its tiny user base, BlackBerry certainly should be able to do it. The party line about having to wait until these app vendors are ready to support BlackBerry 10 is not going to cut it. This company needs to find a way to realize very fast that they can’t afford to take “no” for an answer.