BlackBerry will not give up. Even though their latest generation of SmartPhones is not really taking off, the Canadian firm is still trying to find avenues to stay afloat. There was a first move opening BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) to other platforms, followed by the latest announcement of a pilot to allow monetary transactions over BBM. There might still be hope for the Canadian manufacturer, by focusing in monetising what once made them strong: Their level of security, and giving up what they are not really catching up with: Mobile Devices.
There are certain markets where BlackBerry remains strong, and where BBM enjoys a greater market share than WhatsApp (India, Indonesia and Canada amongst a few others). Seems logical to capitalise on their success in these core markets as well as the dominant position of BBM as the messaging app of choice.
Indonesia, once known as BlackBerry country, still accounts for more than 15 million users, and is the market of choice to launch their latest proposal, one that could definitely help increase the loyalty of Indonesians to the brand, but not sure whether it would be enough to attract new users to the platform. Named BlackBerry Money, the app allows BlackBerry users to link a bank account to their BBM identity, allowing to send money to other BBM users. In essence, a stored value account gets associated to the users BBM identity, where money can be used to make payments to friends and merchants. It can also be used to buy airtime from the user’s carrier and to send money back to their bank account upon receiving payments.
There are quite a few mobile person to person payment solutions available, but the market is quite fragmented, with no proposition really having the critical mass required to become the de facto mobile payments standard. Barclays is one of the market players, with Pingit seeing quite a success in the United Kingdom. For BlackBerry Money to have a chance, it would need to be made available to all platforms where BBM is available. Only this way could it have the critical size to become the mobile payment platform of choice for consumers.
Processing the payment
One of the key aspects when monetising mobile payments is the payment processor. Google still looks shy with Wallet whilst Apple is yet to make a move. Both companies have an enormous amount of Customer credit cards on file, and would probably be tempting for them to materialise payments by using credit card issuers, although this might be a gross misinterpretation and they might have bigger plans in the making to eat the credit card issuers cake. In the meantime, BlackBerry is teaming up with local banks and going towards a stored value model which gives them a certain degree of freedom on processing and eventually establishing (and receiving) the fees.
Quite an interesting move from the Canadian manufacturer, and one that could mean there might be hope, after all.
With the launch (and success) of BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) for iOS and Android platforms, BlackBerry opens up an important piece of their mobility ecosystem to non-Blackberry platforms. It is not the first time the Canadian firm makes its software platform available outside the devices manufactured by themselves.
BlackBerry users would remember BlackBerry Connect, which allowed non-BlackBerry devices to offer BlackBerry email service to their users.
Times have changed enormously since BlackBerry Connect was released, and the company that then was quickly gaining market share concentrating on email, is now struggling for survival. Their devices have lost the battle agains the strong contenders from Apple and the Android ecosystem, but they still play a strong role in the Corporate world.
Would the launch of a multi platform BBM, a fundamental piece of their puzzle that’s underpinned an important portion of their success in former times, be actually the first step in their new strategy?. Would we see a release of the whole BlackBerry suite of productivity tools (Email, Calendar, Browser, Messenger) for iOS and Android?.
I believe this would be a brilliant strategy to follow. Focus on what is still a strength rather than on the devices where they seem to have lost their edge. They would enter with a potentially very strong proposition a market in which probably now only Good for Enterprise is playing, with the advantage of plugging it to their large base of BlackBerry Enterprise Servers already deployed across the globe.
Given the 20 million downloads of BBM in the first week after its launch looks like there definitely is an appetite for BlackBerry as a platform.
In what looks like a desperate attempt to claim their existence, BlackBerry has released an Open Letter in which they try to reinforce to the public the reasons why they should still count on BlackBerry.
Interestingly, the document pivots around two basic ideas: the strength of BlackBerry in the Corporate environment, and BlackBerry Messenger. Interestingly because sticking to those two arguments as their main reason to exist is what probably brought the company to where they are today. Having been a BlackBerry user since 2007, and having used almost a dozen different models, I really wish they find a strong proposition to resurrect. But I do not believe their strong security nor BBM are going to change the game.
There was a time where corporate policies where set by IT departments. It is secure so this is our mobility solution. And that was it. But things changed. Executives have changed their approach and it’s no longer about what works for the IT department, it’s the other way around. I want to use my iPhone for work. Make it secure. Executives love their iPhones and Android smartphones, and not BlackBerries. The product needs to be attractive. Attractive enough so that we will ask for it, rather than accept it as the only alternative.
There was also the time where BBM was a sufficient reason to get hooked into the BlackBerry platform, but WhatsApp wiped that. Yes, BBM is now trying to become cross platform, but, isn’t it a bit too late for that?.
I still see core strengths in a company once revolutionised and almost monopolised mobility, but don’t think the good old arguments suffice anymore. It is no longer about how secure the platform is nor how easy it is for the IT department to manage large estates. You really need to come up with something truly revolutionary and game changing that will make us want to ditch our iPhone. I honestly hope and trust you can make it.