Android, iOS Get BlackBerry Messenger -- Finally, and Slowly
BlackBerry does not have a lot of hit products at the moment, but it does have the popular BlackBerry Messenger. On Monday, the company announced it was moving forward with its previously postponed rollout of the much-in-demand BBM app for Android and iOS devices.
On BlackBerry's official blog, Inside BlackBerry, BBM head Andrew Bocking wrote Monday that "this is the news you've been waiting for!" The free app is now becoming available in Google Play, the iTunes App Store and in selected Samsung App Stores.
He described the demand for BBM on Android and the iPhone as "amazing," with about 6 million users having signed up for BBM information. In fact, he said, the demand is so great that users will need to download the app, enter their e-mail address into it, and then wait for their turn to become connected to the service.
Pausing the Rollout
The Canadian company announced in May that it soon would be rolling out BBM to other platforms, as it had previously been available only for BlackBerry devices. The launch of BBM for those platforms had originally been scheduled for the weekend of Sept. 21, but was postponed.
On Sept. 23, Bocking wrote on the official BlackBerry blog, Inside BlackBerry, that the company had become aware that an "unreleased, older version of BBM for Android" had been posted on various file sharing sites. Bocking added that the unofficial release had "impacted the system in abnormal ways" because of the data traffic it generated -- at much higher levels that normal. The user base for the unauthorized version reportedly ballooned in the seven hours after its availability to nearly a million users.
The only way to deal with the issue of the unauthorized version's impact, he posted on the 23rd, was to "pause the rollout for both Android and iPhone" until the development team could completely block the unauthorized versions in the official editions -- which, he added, was not a simple task.
'Orders of Magnitude'
Jeff Gadway, senior manager for BBM Product Marketing, explained to us that although the problem had only been in the bootleg Android version, the company "needed to pause all systems," including iOS, in order to resolve the issue.
Even though BlackBerry had been expecting substantial data traffic, Gadway said the unauthorized version "resulted in volumes of data traffic orders of magnitude higher than normal for each active user and impacted the system in abnormal ways," so that BlackBerry had to "evolve our system across the board to ensure they would not recur after launch."
He added that the company was "very pleased with the enthusiasm we're seeing" for the rollout.
'Strong Established Base'
The revised Android and iOS versions, with the blocking, have apparently been in closed beta tests since that posting. There had been some rumors that the company, which has its hands full looking for a buyer of the entire company or its constituent parts, was ready to drop the Android and iOS versions altogether.
Ross Rubin, principal analyst for Reticle Research, said BBM merits interest simply because it's a "mobile social network with a strong established base," embedded with various media capabilities. Users can identify each other through a private and unique PIN, avoiding the need to give out one's phone number. BBM is expanding, he added, at a time when there is "strong interest" in mobile messaging apps, such as WhatsApp and Snapchat.
Rubin added that BlackBerry's release to Android and iOS markets helps expand the reach of the software and the company while still maintaining its BlackBerry base, a strategy that could be useful whether BlackBerry is sold or if, as some have suggested, BBM is split off into its own company.