Earlier this month PandoDaily contributor Fritz Nelson noted BlackBerry’s chronic inability to stay in step with current trends, from its failure to adapt to a touchscreen-dominated smartphone market to its half-hearted attempt to release a decent tablet after the iPad.
Now we have another example of BlackBerry’s commitment to smart-but-late decisions: Separating BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) from the rest of the company.
The Wall Street Journal reports that BlackBerry is considering spinning off BBM as a subsidiary with “more independence” — a move that should’ve been made before competitors like WeChat, Line, Facebook, Google, and countless others began fighting for mobile messaging dominance.
BBM has 60 million users; that’s far fewer than WeChat’s 200 million users, LINE’s 230 million users, or even Kik’s 80 million. As Facebook begins to take mobile messaging more seriously with products like Facebook Messenger or Facebook Home, and Google does the same with Hangouts, it wouldn’t be surprising for BBM’s user-base to seem minuscule in just a few years.
And what do all of those services have in common? They’re cross-platform. Services like Facebook Messenger, Hangouts, Kik, and others can be used on Android smartphones, iPhones, and — in some cases — desktop browsers. BBM is currently limited to BlackBerry devices.
That’s supposed to change this summer, when BlackBerry is expected to launch BBM on iOS and Android. But this is yet another example of BlackBerry making a good decision months — or years — later than it should have.
Why use BBM when you can use another service with almost four times as many users? Or when you can rely on Facebook Messenger and Hangouts, which are available on the desktop as well as smartphones and tablets? Or when you’ve already convinced all of your friends to download another service?
If BBM had been spun out from BlackBerry a few years ago, none of those questions would matter and the service would have been able to expand from the shrinking BlackBerry kingdom to the constantly-expanding iOS and Android ecosystems. As it stands, however, the separation of BBM and BlackBerry remains just another example of the company’s inability to evolve alongside the rest of the industry.
[Illustration by Hallie Bateman for PandoDaily]
[A previous version of this post stated that Kik had 50 million users. As of a few weeks ago, it has 80 million. The post has been updated accordingly.]