RIM's latest lame attempt to make the BlackBerry hip

RIM hopes it can turn BlackBerry Messenger into a broad social platform to grow -- or at least keep -- its customers

I really don't understand what the folks at Research in Motion are thinking. This week, RIM announced the BBM Music service that lets you choose 50 songs to stream to your BlackBerry for on-demand listening. The $5-per-month service works with RIM's popular BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), its BlackBerry-to-BlackBerry IM service; you must go through BBM to use BBM Music.

RIM has been trying for a while to expand beyond the business executive set, a market it's steadily losing to the iPhone and one with a much smaller addressable audience. Of course, everyone else is targeting the consumer market: Microsoft's silly Kin "social" phone flop of a year ago and its business-ignorant Windows Phone; almost all of Nokia's product line; most Google Android-based smartphones; "featurephone" platforms like Samsung's Bada; and Apple's own iPhone, which so far is doing the best job of appealing to both consumers and businesspeople.

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A year or so ago RIM tried to get games onto its BlackBerry OS, but its devices can't do much more than Pong-style titles. However, the new BlackBerry Bold and Torch models now rolling out across various carriers may finally provide a gaming-capable platform, thanks to the use of decently fast processors, better screens, and improved HTML5 support. In the meantime, it's looking at music, through BBM Music.


Not a compelling music service
It makes perfect sense for RIM to target nonbusiness users. After all, a surprising growth audience for its products are youths in countries like the United Kingdom, where RIM's retro messaging-focused technology has found takers, as we saw in the recent British riots. In fact, the new Curve devices announced this week are aimed at 20-somethings who like to message but not pay for SMS.

But it would be even better to design smartphones that function nicely in both consumer and business contexts, given the trend of people using one mobile device for both personal and work duties. And it would make more sense to do it well.

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