After hitting bottom, the only way Blackberry can go is up

7 January 2014 by Steve Blum
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I was dead, but I got better.

Blackberry is salvaging something out the wreckage of its mobile phone business, by porting its BBM chat service – formerly Blackberry Messenger – to the iOS and Android platforms. And it’s claiming a fair amount of success. According to a spokesman at this evening’s Showstoppers CES press, Blackberry has doubled its BBM user count – going from 40 to 80 million users worldwide – in the two months or so since it launched its iPhone and Android apps.

In the coming weeks, Blackberry plans to add a Skype-like voice service, where BBM users can talk to each other for free over the Internet. BBM’s selling proposition is that it’s secure – Blackberry still boasts a solid reputation and technology on that count – and verifiable. The service lets users know when messages have been delivered and read.

There’s no charge for either the app or the service, and Blackberry isn’t generating any other revenue with it yet. But it does have plans to eventually monetise its user base through advertising, likely via sponsored messages.

BBM is being run as a separate business. Blackberry’s new CEO has reorganised the company into four independent units: messaging, machine-to-machine services, back end enterprise services (which is also cross-platform) and its once dominant smart phone business, which now has fewer customers than BBM.

Blackberry will be an emaciated shell, but it won’t die. The hardware business will shamble along, likely for years, with slow-to-change government customers, and the other three units can usefully cherry pick Blackberry’s deep base of proprietary technology. Going forward, survival is success.