BBM is not just a chat app, it’s an ecosystem.
BBM was the original mobile first messaging app. Created by Gary Klassen during his time at BlackBerry, the app was very popular among BlackBerry users. The users of this BlackBerry app spanned a wide range of types. From business professionals who utilized their smartphones as a mobile office, to users within developing markets where BlackBerry offered affordable BBM only data plans. BBM was an amazing chat app which saw it’s fortunes fall as BlackBerry’s handset business shrunk.
Soon, other chat apps started appearing. Other apps that were obviously modeled after BBM, and which in many cases are still catching up with features which have been present in BBM for years. BlackBerry decided just a little too late to really compete with these other chat apps which exploded in popularity by bringing the BlackBerry Messenger to all in a cross platform bid.
Unfortunately, once again, the timing was just a little off. This was at a time when BlackBerry was still a struggling phone maker and while BBM was already an extremely full featured app when compared with competitors, and while other additional features were still being added, the word just didn’t get out. As we all know, marketing was not a priority of BlackBerry, and the messenger didn’t see the growth we all wanted.
But BlackBerry took another route under the leadership of CEO John Chen. BlackBerry was no longer a hardware manufacturer, instead becoming a software and security company. While focusing on the enterprise, BlackBerry didn’t plan on letting their more consumer friendly products wither on the vine and instead chose to license some of the products out. Along with hardware being licensed to three separate manufacturers, BBM was licensed to a company which at that point was called Emtek, although now BBM users will be seeing that the name used in the licensing is Creative Media Works, which is much more in the line of what products and services are being brought forth.
Creative Media Works is taking BBM in directions most of us would not have thought of. As BBM CEO Matthew Talbot explained in an interview with website Tech Central. Creative Media Works has chosen to “evolve BBM from a originally just a messaging app with voice and video and groups and so forth, to a full fledged ecosystem” by bringing new services such as games, shopping services, news, as well as many more to come such as an upcoming Uber bot. In doing so, BBM is being brought out of the messaging app marketplace. While BBM has an amazing and reliable messaging functionality at it’s core, it offers so much more in terms of content and services. Meanwhile, the world’s most popular messaging app, WhatsApp, is precisely that. A messaging app. Just a messaging app.
To be fair, this is not the first messaging app to take this direction. Other messaging apps like WeChat, Line, and KakaoTalk also offer additional content, however these services are typically regional based, and as such, these messenger apps are extremely popular in their respective Asian markets. Creative Media Works is also providing specific services to specific markets, as one should expect. There are of course legalities when dealing with offering content in different regions around the world, but BBM is working hard to offer new and exciting services in every region. We have seen services arriving for Indonesia, which is where Creative Media Works is based, as well as numerous services for Africa, the US and Canada.
BlackBerry has seen success in shedding the restrictions of being a hardware manufacturer, by becoming a cross platform software and security company, while still providing the best smartphone experience. BBM has shed it’s restrictions of being a messaging app, and is becoming a content and services provider while still providing the best messaging experience. And I’m excited to see where all it’s going.