BlackBerry Messenger Leaves the Sandbox for Android, iOS Soon - Technologist
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BlackBerry Messenger Leaves the Sandbox for Android, iOS Soon

We haven't been this excited for a BlackBerry product since ... ever?

The most understood thing about BlackBerry today is that the company is on life support, waited too long to innovate with their hardware and operating system, and has dropped from market leader to statistical footnote, usage-wise.

But one thing BlackBerry does well (besides physical keyboards) is BlackBerry Messenger. BBM, which to date has been BlackBerry-only, allows users to communicate in nearly every imaginable way (voice, video, text, pictures, group texts, broadcasts, status updates, public chats, etc.) through a single app. Of course, that brilliant app didn't seem so brilliant when users had no one left to talk to.

Cross-Platform Rollout Schedule

This weekend, BlackBerry plans on launching a pared-down version of the app for Android and iOS, bringing text-based messages, group chats, and other core features. Later this year, the company plans on adding voice and video chat, plus public "channels" (interest-based chat rooms) to third-party apps as well.

If the rollout happens as planned, you could soon be messaging with your firm's staff, fellow attorneys, family and friends, all in a single app, no matter what type of phone they have, and all without using your text messaging or voice minutes plan.

Too Late?

If everything works, and works soon, they might have a fighting chance. Google Hangouts is a decent app, but it has many limitations (including no voice chat or messages). Ditto for iMessage, which is for iPhone users only. Facebook Chat, which is quite popular in the U.S., has text-only.

And then, there is WhatsApp. The $1 per year, ad-free service does nearly everything BBM does, and is adding features regularly. It has 300 million users globally and seems to be the leader of the messaging apps market. BBM, on the other hand, is free (for now) and has a more robust feature set in its BlackBerry-only app.

If BBM's Android and iOS apps get the full-feature treatment quickly, the magic words "free" and "cross-platform" could capture a significant chunk of the market share.

Precursor to a Sale?

What's a company to do when they are near-dead, and in the process of laying off up to 40 percent of its workforce? Create saleable assets.

Rumors about the company's sale have been swirling for a while (which led us to remind you NOT to buy a BlackBerry in the near future). This could simply be an attempt to create an asset. After all, BBM was one of the few notable features on BlackBerry that differentiated their smartphone platforms. Once that's gone cross-platform, it gives users one less reason to switch to the company's hardware.

In other words, sacrifice long-term growth for a short-term promising product that can be sold off when the company is pieced-out for sale.

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