While reading through BlackBerry-related news yesterday, I saw a post that our friend Ronen published on BerryReview pertaining to BBM Money.
Here’s whats new: In the first 90 days since launching BBM Money in Indonesia, the service has in excess of 60,000 users registered. It’s not exactly a huge number, but apparently the target is to grow this user base to 200,000 by the end of the current year. Sounds like they are well on their way to achieving this goal.
Keep in mind BBM Money can only be used by BlackBerry customers today. And it can only be used to send money between BBM users, or to top up your mobile account. It only exists in Indonesia today, where most BlackBerry hardware is running the legacy BBOS, and the devices don’t have features such as near field communications (NFC) to permit “tap to pay” type functionality.
It’s easy to sit back and think, “Oh, 60k users ... big whop. Who cares.” But with a bit of runway, it’s equally easy to see how merchants could adopt BBM Money and permit transactions to happen through the service. It’s easy to see how future BB10 devices would make it easier to split tabs at a bar with NFC, or now the launch of BBM Channels could become a way for products to be sold and paid for via BBM Money.
And it’s also pretty obvious that Android is growing in strength in Indonesia, a country with 111% mobile penetration and a population of 242 million. As soon as BBM for Android is released, the cross-platform growth of the best mobile messaging platform in the world should take hold of the Indonesian marketplace even more firmly. Given Thorsten Heins’ comments about looking to hit feature parity with the Android and iOS versions of BBM, it stands to reason that BBM Money will hit those platforms (and really, in Indonesia, Android matters far more than iOS). Of course there is some work to do in order to make this happen. Right now BBM Money is a separate app distributed via App World. In the future I think it makes sense for BlackBerry to integrate the money feature into BBM directly.
So who’s making money from this? PayPal makes tons of cash by handling electronic payments for people, and it stands to reason that BBM Money should be profitable for BlackBerry. But the folks at BlackBerry did not build this service on their own. It was done in conjunction with PermataBank (an Indonesian bank) and Monitise, a publicly traded UK company (MONI: LSE).
My closing thoughts: There needs to be consolidation around mobile IM, and the fact that BBM is going cross platform gives BlackBerry a chance to take that leadership position. It also stands to reason that mobile payments should be integrated with mobile instant messaging, and BBM Money seems to be the first service to achieve this. Does that mean it will grow to serve millions of users globally and compete with PayPal? I don’t know. I haven’t spent a ton of time researching this topic yet, but I think it’s one that deserves some attention.
What do you guys think? Anyone from Indonesia care to jump in on the comments and tell us what your experience using BBM Money is like? What opportunities do you see for the service to expand and improve?