BlackBerry is moving fast under the leadership of John Chen. I’ve never seen the company make as many changes as it has in the last few months. Not even close. I don’t think I’m alone in saying this has turned me into a big fan of Chen.
One of these changes has been to place the BBM leadership in the hands of the enterprise team led by John Sims. Not even a week after I wrote an article talking about how I hoped to see enterprise BBM services roll out, BlackBerry announced it in Barcelona.
Obviously I think this makes perfect sense. And while we haven’t seen a live demo of how this will work in the real world, I think there’s some interesting potential synergy in offering enterprise-grade IM features in the exact same client that they already use to chat with friends and family outside of the work environment. It’s almost like BlackBerry Balance baked into the IM experience, or at least that’s one way to think about it.
With the announcements around BES10 pricing and the integration of both legacy and new enterprise server functionality glued together inside of BES12, and now eBBM, it’s possible that BlackBerry could see some excellent traction in the workplace.
This could lead to more viral growth. If you’re working for one company and your buddies are working for other companies who all use eBBM, perhaps it would be more likely for you all to communicate over “regular” BBM. It only makes sense. It also makes sense that if several people in a group of friends use BBM because of work while a few others in the gang don’t use eBBM at work, they still may choose BBM as their social chat tool because their friends already use it.
In a recent article I wrote for the Globe and Mail, I made my view pretty clear. Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp could lead to the company dominating the future of mobile communication. Given that I was writing with a limited word quota and to a less technical audience, I didn’t get a chance to dive into the details of I feel this way. But I do believe most of the world will move towards a single winning IM platform in the next decade. SMS will essentially die, and data-oriented IM will take over. I think there will be one major winner because I don’t see the alternative, an open standard, gaining any traction. So the biggest player will win, by default. Facebook may become that biggest player if nobody stops them.
I think Facebook is going to win, and as disclosure, I’m both a Facebook and BlackBerry shareholder. But what could BlackBerry do to win? It’s a moon shot, but it is possible.
What if BlackBerry was to find a way to make eBBM so darn easy to deploy and so darn cheap that most major enterprises used it as the obvious IM platform for employees? Considering how many people work for medium and large companies, considering that BBM is now cross-platform, and considering the security features that eBBM will bring, it could be the company’s new pry bar to get themselves back to huge growth in user adoption. With this in mind, I wonder just how aggressive BlackBerry might want to be in seeding eBBM licenses at very low (or even no) cost in order to stand a chance at global dominance.
But even if eBBM doesn’t help BlackBerry dominate the global scene for consumer-oriented IM, I still think there’s strong upside in being a niche market winner … that means winning in businesses that are heavily regulated.