Talking with inventor of BBM about PC, iOS, and Android rollouts

Gary Klassen
By Simon Sage on 26 Sep 2013 04:51 pm EDT
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Talking with Gary Klassen is always so refreshing. He has this child-like glee that sparkles in his eye at least once every conversation. Even at hard times like this for BlackBerry, he manages to keep this spirit alive. In fact, I bet he secretly relishes the challenge of a dramatic (and some say impossible) turnaround. As you might expect, most of my questions with Gary revolved around BBM, and specifically the demo of BBM running on Windows during the general session. I hounded him for a release date, features list - anything concrete - he shot me down, but at least it was in a pretty interesting way.

BlackBerry Jam is a dev conference. That said, if product launches happen at the show, that's convenient, but not necessary or expected. So why show anything remotely new at all? The short answer is to inspire by example, said Klassen. Providing technical guidance to developers has never really been BlackBerry's big problem. They've never really provided conceptual guidance, however - a trait some might consider infinitely more valuable. To that end, the BBM demo on PC still serves a purpose, even if it never reaches consumers. Our conversation meandered to other screens which mobile interfaces could be projected to, like cars, or airplane entertainment consoles. 

"We show these things with intent."

Through that lens, BBM on PC, enabled over Wi-Fi and borrowing elements of Link and Bridge, is less of a product announcement and more a demonstration of the power of the platform. It certainly reiterates BBM's focus on mobile first, rather than building an entirely separate product category to manage.  Gary was also clear that the demo also showed the general direction BlackBerry drifting towards. Other demos, like BlackBerry Sweden's rocking chair game and Tim Neil's fitness app started falling under the same color. Though vaguely indicating what kind of products they're working on does choreograph their next steps, that's probably something they need to do if they're courting bidders to go private.

"To me, we're victims of our own success."

It was hard to talk to Gary and not bring up the BBM for iOS and Android situation. As far as he's concerned, the beta did exactly what a beta's supposed to do: show flaws in the software so they can fix it. Obviously the leak wasn't quite a part of the planned beta process, and ideally nothing would have broken at all, but it's certainly better that things get fixed before the public launch than after. Ultimately, Klassen was reiterating what BlackBerry had said originally:  the leak of an older build exacerbated a problem they were already tackling. 

Beyond that, Gary talked about some very high-level stuff, like their goal of enabling developers so they can focus on making great experiences rather than getting bogged down in the technical nitty-gritty. Similarly, they aim to have consumers naturalize a lot of the navigation so the task at hand is the only thing really using up any concentration.

More coming from BlackBerry Jam Asia tomorrow!

Reader comments

Talking with inventor of BBM about PC, iOS, and Android rollouts

92 Comments

Simon can you please tell us where in your conversation with him does he say "To me, we're victims of our own success."? I'd be very interested on reading that...

Thanks!

Posted via BlackBerry Z10

At that point we were talking about why the iOS/Android rollout crashed. Basically, his point was that BBM was so popular that there were enough people getting the leaked version to hit the same bug and bork the servers.

"Ultimately, Klassen was reiterating what BlackBerry had said originally: the leak of an older build exasperated a problem they were already tackling."

So, why did they allow it to leak? It's not like they were kicking ass and taking names after it spilled out prior to launch.

Great so what I gather is that bbm for desktop is just a concept..... Which tells me it's light years away from being realized.

I wonder if BBM for PC means that only those using Windows-based computers will get it. I certainly hope not because I used to use Windows and recently switched to Mac OS X and would love to be able to use BBM on my Mac using the same pin that's associated with my BBID.

It's not an independent client, but instead it 'basically' sends through your BBM-capable mobile device 'over a bridge-like' connection. Pretty much how BBM on the PlayBook works now.

Posted via CB10

This article was based solely on hypothetical jargon and basically admitted that BBM for PC's is nothing more than a pipe dream. Not exactly an inspiring conversation with the inventor of BBM.

It is not exactly a pipe dream, because they can integrate it in Link tomorrow if they wanted to. But they won't. And it is not THAT important imho, it is just some added convenience for those who own a device. It doesn't bring in any new users, just gives the existing ones a screen and a keyboard.

What is the secret project going on in Sweden @ TAT? that's what i would like to know....

and no I don't mean a rocking chair game demo.

Games up.......blackberry finally caught out.....cant keep messing your loyal follower around forever......they will just cease to follow.....moral of the story......do what you say.....and do it on time!

Posted via CB10

Quit using the ellipses so much; it's annoying.

--Q10 and Canadian all the way! Posted via CB10 on 10.2.0.1443. #IChooseBlackBerry10

And what is an ellipsis? Three periods in a row.

--Q10 and Canadian all the way! Posted via CB10 on 10.2.0.1443. #IChooseBlackBerry10

Personally, I'd rather see BBM on Macs and PCs go directly to the BlackBerry network. This whole bridge through bluetooth or wifi idea is for the birds. Bridge is okay for power users, but nobody wants to be Dependant on linking their computer to their smartphone.

If the idea is the really drive widespread adoption of BBM, make as easy as possible to become a BBM user with a few clicks of a mouse (regardless of which smartphone you have or the state it's in).

If the idea is to waste resources on a feature that only BlackBerry diehards would try to use and very few would use regularly, create general confusion and buginess, then yeah, try to proxy your pc through your phone.

I disagree. There is nothing confusing about it. I'm in a BBM convo or ten on my phone. I get to my work desk/home desktop. I sync, it continues on my desktop but is stored on my phone. I leave my desk and unsync...no data lost. The entire conversation stays on my phone. I never lost contact once. I also didn't have to be on my phone and PC at the same time which lessens distractions while needing to use my PC and allows me to stay connected even when not using my phone. Sounds win win.

Posted via CB10

And it uses wifi, so as long as your phone is connected you won't have to touch it to start using BlackBerry Messenger on the desktop--it should automatically connect.

And if somebody wants to use BBM on their computer, they most likely are already using it on their phone, so to me it's a non-issue.

--Q10 and Canadian all the way! Posted via CB10 on 10.2.0.1443. #IChooseBlackBerry10

Isn't going to work for me or anyone else that's on a corporate LAN. The wired and wireless networks are on a separate nat.

Some wifi networks will block wifi clients from talking to eachother. So, if your network is like that, and your pc is connected via wifi (more common these days) you are going to have to deal with that. Maybe it's easy or maybe it's hard, but it's one more thing to deal with.

As for the "... they most likely are already using it on their phone..." I agree, but the point (I think) is to drive widespread adoption - beyond just the BlackBerry handheld users. To do that, you have make it really easy to download, install and configure.

I want to tell someone (regardless of what phone they have), hey, let's stay connected together on BBM. It's free, easy and works really well. If it's really easy to adopt, it's possible that they would do it out of curiosity to get going. Walla, we have another BlackBerry user.

The point, I think, is to push the BlackBerry brand without pushing the BlackBerry handheld. Being able to say "BlackBerry is cool" without saying, "you have to give up your iphone/android to understand/experience/agree-with that." Once that barrier is broken, they may be likely to keep an open mind to BlackBerry next time upgrade comes up. But, regardless of what phone they run, I get to communicate with them with the benefits of BBM.

So just like Google chat already? Or Facebook chat? Real groundbreaking stuff here with the BBM on desktop. Who'd have ever dreamed of it!

Posted via CB10

Not quite. Google Talk (or Google Chat as you wish to refer to it) would only notify of messages being sent and received in the place where you're doing your messaging. It would also only show your replies in that same place you're talking, not on other devices. You'd always need to remember exactly what was being discussed and your own previous replies. I haven't tried Google Hangouts yet to see if that is fixed, I'll be honest, because none of my contacts use Google Hangouts (which I kinda wish they'd bring to BB10 anyways, but in the end don't really entirely care too much about right now).

Facebook Chat doesn't sync in real time with other devices. For example, if I'm sending messages back and forth with someone while at my computer, sometimes those messages aren't necessarily syncing right away with my mobile device. Sometimes they don't sync over at all until I open up the Facebook app (this goes for both my BlackBerry and my Android phone). Syncing from mobile to desktop is relatively normal, but not the other way around.

This idea / concept of BBM on desktop working over WiFi / Bluetooth is different, better in some senses. Probably the best way this is better is in the security of your messages. I'm not talking the non-hackability of BBM (because we know it's not completely infallible), but instead about knowing for certain when someone is browsing your conversations. BBM cannot be logged into more than one device at a single given time, which means if someone logs themself into your BlackBerry I.D on another device, you're going to know instantly when you get logged out right away. In the case of the concept we're discussing, when you leave the computer and disconnect BBM from the laptop, it's disconnected. It's not like FaceBook messenger or Google Talk / Hangouts which comes to life when your Facebook / Google account gets opened up by siblings or parents or your kids or your significant other, giving them instant access to all the messages you're sending back and forth with whomever. To me it's that added bit of security saying that when you're messaging someone on BBM, unless their phone's been swiped, you're talking with them, not someone who's accessing their computer and happened to log into their accounts in the process.

I know, not exactly ground-breaking, but I actually like this approach, with the phone essentially being the "key" to getting in touch with you.

Inspire by example?????

Release a quality finished app. Set the bar higher. There, use that example.

Posted via CB10

Simon, nice article. I appreciate the insight.

Regarding the statement: "In fact, I bet he secretly relishes the challenge of a dramatic (and some say impossible) turnaround.". Com'on who wouldn't! The challenge isn't impossible. Difficult, yes. But all things worthwhile are.

Go for it. The way forward is clear.

Posted via CB10

BlackBerry/RIM has never been known to take emotional risks. Miscalculated ones, maybe.

It would take a massive overhaul of management and mindset to begin down that new path.

Meh i don't care for BBM on a windows computer it was built for mobile that why its superior. The only other place I want BBM is in my car.

Computer isn't mobile ?

I can think of 2 scenarios:
1. Continuing on BBM on Laptop while sitting at Starbucks or Library.
2. Carputer (i.e. Windows machine running in car) and getting BBM while driving.

On the one hand I agree there, but I look at it sort of like the phone being the "key" to getting in touch with you. It's still technically mobile and so follows you wherever you and your phone go together, but you can carry on conversations on a larger screen with a larger keyboard.

As far as BBM in your car goes, I'd think that would require a very good text reading capability in the device, and an even better context-concious voice-dictation capability. Besides, what if you start getting BBM messages that are not meant to be read aloud? (think business classified sort of stuff)

Our friends at CrackBerry are very much like the Washington press here in the States. If you ask "tough questions" you lose all perks, invites to parties, pictures with "big shots"...

Get the "picture"????....

Lastly... if any of the guys from BlackBerry EVER had answers for these kinds of questions - we, probably, wouldn't be in the pile of shit that we are in with this company.... in fairness...

You are right about Gary, I had the pleasure of meeting him at BBLive 2013 and to describe him as refreshing is an understatement. An amazing individual to be sure.

I'm not sure what he meant by were victims of our own success... what was the context for that statement... hmmm

Posted via CB10

It means that we go complacent with the success and didn't challenge themselves to be better.

It happens to the best of them.

Posted via CB10

It's like hearing tim cook or that jonny guy talk about how their competitors are so far behind and have failed to innovate. But at least apple is not in the ditch yet.

Did I miss the part about "the date when the launch of BBM cross platform will launch" and in "BlackBerry time" that means - give or take a couple of months?

Simon? Launch date? Isn't that the purpose of this article?

Also, what is Kevin doing in Korea? Was he sold as, part of, the Farifax deal?

Strange and very "costly" times indeed to be involved with BlackBerry...

Hopefully, Frank Boulben is still employed at BlackBerry - we have a Z30 to launch in the U.S.A. and he has done such an "amazing job" with the other BB10 launches - we need him....

I disagree, those two words are always acceptable in such sentences as "Let's launch Frank off the top of a very high building".

Posted via CB10

So bbm for desktop is a concept? Yet viber for desktop runs so well. Blackberry really is still in the past. Gtfo.

Viber doesn't run over a secure private network, no other publicly available free chat, IM, voice / video call solutions do.

That's what makes BBM for desktop a trickier thing to implement and why it's probably better to keep BBM on your mobile device and "view" your chats on your desktop over some kind of bridge. Otherwise PCs would have to have PINs on the NOC just like mobiles using BBM and the virus/malware haven of Windows could wreak havoc on us all.

Posted via CB10

The part that eludes me completely about BlackBerry Jam is that someone in Waterloo apparently still believes that developers can be swayed into investing a lot of resources into this platform on life support. BlackBerry reminds me of the Dismembered Knight character of Monty Python fame.

What did you want them to do, cancel the event and concede defeat? Their defiance might be what is needed sometimes. They can raise the white flag when they run these events and nobody shows up.

Why stop at it being a concept when it can be better !!! It would have been awesome! Stop coming up with merely concepts! Just execute already!

Posted via CB10

BlackBerry cannot innovate any more. We've heard the same 'concept' crap from BlackBerry since the early days of BlackBerry OS 10.

Posted via CB10 from the BlackBerry Z10

All of this and nothing specific on the #BBMCrossPlatform release date?

DISAPOINTING!!

#IChooseBlackBerry10 #BB10Believe #BlackBerryNation #BB10Army #BB10Freak #KeepMoving #TeamBlackberry

I'm MongezaurioBerry

"To me, we're victims of our own success."

To me, they're the victims of their own failures i.e. failure to deliver what they've been promising, (if they deliver it) failure to deliver on time, failure to market their products effectively, failure to properly response when necessary at the right time with appropriate action, failure to listen and address what consumers wants etc...

Posted via Z10

Hmm. This is the first step to fulfilling Thor's goal of your device being the center, projecting into other devices.

Posted via CB10. Follow Nerds On Site, your technology partners world wide, on BBM Channels: C001227C4

Why not make BlackBerry Messenger on the computer run as a webapp instead of tying it to Microsoft Windows? These days BlackBerry behaves like a person suffering from a personality disorder.

Posted via CB10 from the BlackBerry Z10

So what how does a product go from ready and released, to oops, it screwed up, to just non existent. This bullshit is getting a little ridiculous.

Posted via SEGA master system

Good to see the man who is innovator and inventor,need more genius like him in BB to pull it back to greatness.
Hope they come with bbm for all commitment soon.

Very lack luster.

Version discrimination and lack of cross platform communication ability unless your enterprise.

Starship that is.

Which is where the dev crew seem to be.

It's a modified version of jabber ?

That the users pay typically $10 per month if on a plan 12-24.
$20 for no contract.

It's yet another capitalisation of an OS piece of software modded to suite corporation X.

We are paying yet again for a half done job.

At least jabber clients do what they do and are available cross platform.

These great brains who get bored before they even complete a build of OS oh yes god bless the ground they walk on.

Completely user and IT dept unfriendly.

Here's another re invented wheel that has the ride of an octagon.

So who can you talk to apart from BB users, ndroid, iOS through the wonders of porting no doubt?

Truly innovative yawn buy it one year throw it the next.

No desktop app ?

What you didn't think that would be necessary.

Marvellous who needs pc, mac, *nix users we will just ...

Security ! Security!!!

But at a guess I would say they have signed contracts with telcos saying that their technology will not be used to evade payment for the right to communicate.

That in turn gets them a guaranteed seat onboard the OS Concordia.