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Can BlackBerry revive BBM with a wider reach and new features?

Puneet Sikka

BlackBerry announces mixed Q4 results as its struggle continues (Part 4 of 5)

(Continued from Part 3)

BlackBerry’s trying to revive its fortunes

In the previous articles of this series, we discussed BlackBerry’s (BBRY) Q4 results and found out that despite a reduction in losses, the company hasn’t been able to control its decline in revenues. BlackBerry’s trying to revive its fortunes through the introduction of new products. However, the company now plans to revive another important messaging service, popularly known as BBM or BlackBerry Messenger. The BBM service has suffered in part due to the decline in BlackBerry smartphone sales and in part due to the company’s reluctance to open its service to other smartphone operating system platforms such as Google’s (GOOG) Android and Apple’s (AAPL) iOS.

BlackBerry Messenger (or BBM) service struggles with competitors

As per the above chart, BlackBerry’s BBM service is struggling against the likes of WhatsApp and WeChat when it comes to instant messaging applications. WhatsApp, which was recently acquired by Facebook (FB) for $19 billion, has about 450 million monthly active users, and Tencent’s (TCEHY) WeChat has about 355 million monthly active users, compared to only 85 million monthly active users for BBM service.

BlackBerry’s trying to expand BBM’s reach

BlackBerry has realized this issue, and now it’s trying to open up its service to other smartphone platforms as well. During the conference call to announce BlackBerry’s earnings, John Chen, the CEO of the company, mentioned that BBM would be available on Microsoft’s (MSFT) Windows Phone platform, adding to its support to iOS and Android.

Chen remarked, “Like last quarter, growing the BBM user base is a top priority and we have a number of initiatives driving this. We announced some of these on Mobile World Congress already. One is the expanding platform reach. BBM would be available on Windows phones adding to our support to iOS and Android. Like LG group BBM is now featured on Nokia X platform device. This will improve preloading BBM in selected markets today, joint development efforts on its way for Windows phone platform and for a global availability target for fiscal Q2. This will also include for some selected device on Nokia like the Lumia — in the Lumia portfolio, we will have preload of BBM when it’s shipped.”

BlackBerry’s also trying to add new features to BBM

Chen also mentioned BBM’s 2.0 version, which the company launched in February this year. He remarked, “In February, we launched our BBM 2.0 which includes several new features. While we have location services, Dropbox integration, we also added the voice and channel for cross platform users. BBM channel has drawn some strong interest for brands and businesses. So we added a lot of new channels daily. Recent partners will include CNBC, Time, Rolling Stone and Virgin Atlantic. The channel delivers to our partner a highly engaged and targeted mobile audience. So we now actually have 1 million BBM channels and this number is growing very fast. I think when I first started four months ago we were in the 200,000 number. So in four months we have doubled the number of channels.”

Continue to Part 5

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