The Demise of BBM

BlackBerrys were all the rage in the early naughties, and if you were a proud owner of one yourself, you’re sure to have fond memories of exchanging BBM PINs, enabling you to instant message other BlackBerry users via the BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) app. BBM was first released in 2005 as the original “mobile-first” messaging service allowing users to message multiple people at the same time with the introduction of group chats. For the first 8 years of its life, BBM only allowed users to message other BlackBerry users, however in October 2013, BBM was officially released on iOS and Android, making it the No. 1 free app on both the App Store and the Google Play store that year.

Although BBM was finally made universal, it was perhaps too late for the once top-of-the-game app, and it was quickly dethroned after Whatsapp launched in 2009. Although first launched for the iPhone, WhatsApp was very quickly introduced on BlackBerrys OS platform, and in August 2014, WhatsApp became the most globally popular messaging app, with more than 600 million users.


However, we can’t completely blame WhatsApp, and other instant messaging app rivals, for the demise of BBM, as it seems Apple and Google also had a part to play. The iPhone didn’t hit the world with a bang during its early years, but by the launch of the iPhone 4 in 2010, it was clear that Apple was way ahead of the smartphone competition. BlackBerry remained a strong contender in the corporate world, however failed to keep up with consumer hardware trends, and refused to ditch its trademark physical keyboard. As BYOD (bring your own device) became more popular in companies, the need and want for BlackBerrys swiftly declined. So much so that in September 2016, BlackBerry announced that it would no longer make its own phones, planning to work with third-party phone manufacturers.

On the 27th of June 2016, it was announced that Emtek Group, an Indonesia-based technology company, had acquired the licensing rights for BBM as part of a $207 million deal, however the paid enterprise edition, BBM Enterprise (formerly known as BBM Protected), is still developed by BlackBerry Limited.

Emtek had attempted to keep the app relevant by introducing features such as video calling and a partnership with Uber, allowing users to hail an Uber car straight from the BBM app, however despite its best efforts (and with the continuing rise of iMessage, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger), the group announced in a blog post over the weekend that the consumer version of the messaging service will close down on the 31st of May 2019. They said in a statement on Thursday;


“We are proud of what we have built to date. The technology industry, however, is very fluid, and in spite of our substantial efforts, users have moved on to other platforms, while new users proved difficult to sign on. Though we are sad to say goodbye, the time has come to sunset the BBM consumer service, and for us to move on. We are grateful for your support and wish to thank everyone, especially our users, partners, and employees, for being part of the BBM consumer service journey.”


At the end of the blog, they included a link to the BBM FAQ page, which stated that users will be able to download photos, videos and files shared through BBM directly from the application prior to closing the service, however contacts and feeds cannot be exported. They also reiterated that once the BBM service is shut down, you will not be able to open BBM on your device to see any old or new messages or retrieve asset files.

It’s not all bad news for die-hard BBM fans though, as the BlackBerry Enterprise app (BBMe), which offers most of the features of the consumer version along with end-to-end encryption, will continue to operate as normal, and BlackBerry has announced that the corporate app will now be available to everyone. However, after the first year, the app will be chargeable at $2.50 for a six-month subscription. BlackBerry’s Chief Marketing Officer, Mark Wilson, made a statement saying;


“While we respect Emtek’s decision, we’re disappointed the platform did not thrive and grow as expected. After much consideration, we decided that BBM’s loyal users should continue to have a secure messaging platform that they can trust.”


So are you sad to see BBM say goodbye, or do you think it’s been a long time coming? Whatever your views, this news highlights how competitive the technology industry really is, and if innovation isn’t at the heart of your business, then there is a high risk that you will be left behind.


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