Limiting users to 50 streaming songs -- only 25 of which can be changed per month -- is silly. Chances are your favorites playlist isn't as large as 50, but why the restriction at all? The streaming focus is also a great way to eat up capped data plans' allowances. Plus, if you want to stream music, you can use a service such as Spotify or RDIO. If you don't care to stream but want access to all your favorite music easily, iPods and iPhones are really good at it, and the forthcoming iCloud will further improve the experience.
The real strategy: Lure users into a social walled garden
But BBM Music isn't really about music -- it's about social sharing, divvying your streams with other users and expanding your playlists virtually. RIM expects to use BlackBerry Messenger as the basis for a whole raft of social services, not just music.
Social is the new "it" technology, and for businesses such as RIM, the attraction is that such sharing requires everyone to use the same platform. That's a way to keep your market and perhaps grow it -- which RIM deperately wants to do. Of course, RIM's selfish view of social is no different than that of Microsoft's failed Kin nor of that once-dominant Internet monstrosity known as AOL. It's a honey pot -- a walled garden -- meant to trap customers. That's the problem: Very, very few walled gardens succeed; instant messaging for example, didn't take off until the services allowed cross-messaging, and email would have never taken off had it not been universal from the get-go.
Still, the temptation is hard for most companies to resist. Apple, for example, tried a similar tactic with its little-used Ping service for iTunes users, despite iTunes' domination among music aficonados. It did the same with FaceTime, its iOS-only videoconferencing feature; FaceTime works well, but too many people use non-iOS devices for it to become a natural communications vehicle. Apple is trying its own iOS-only BBM clone called iMessage in the forthcoming iOS 5. (I think iMessage will go nowhere as well.)
Social technology is a good bellwether of when a company has no innovative ideas. It's a cheap buzz concept that gets immediate attention. However, the attention is short-lived, and most social plays wither quickly. You can count on the fingers of one hand the social services you actually use regularly, and it'll stay that way because there are only so many communities you can actively engage in -- especially when each uses its own technology for doing so.
This article, "RIM's latest lame attempt to make the BlackBerry hip," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.