RIM's risky bet: Porting BlackBerry Messenger to Android, iPhone

Although BBM on non-BlackBerry devices would be great for users, it may not benefit RIM's revenue

Research in Motion (RIM) is planning to make its popular BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) available on the competing Android and iOS platforms, or so says the often accurate rumor site Boy Genius Report. Just what is RIM thinking, and how could a cross-platform BBM affect your business? According to the Boy Genius Report blog:

We've been told RIM will offer stripped-down versions of the BBM experience BlackBerry owners know and love. That way, Android and iOS users can communicate with practically anyone who has a smartphone using BBM, but they might not be able to share photos, location, or videos (when RIM crosses that bridge). Users who want the full BlackBerry Messenger experience will still need a BlackBerry smartphone to get it.

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BBM offers immediate gratification and exclusivity

Although RIM made a name for itself through its email support, today's users are much more inclined toward the instant gratification that SMS texting, IM chats, and BlackBerry Messenger provides. BBM push notifications and ability to see if the person you're "BBMing" has received or read your note and is in the process of replying -- the acts of BBM chatting -- provide immediate gratification that email simply doesn't.

Today, BBM is available only on BlackBerry devices, putting non-BlackBerry owners outside of the loop when their BlackBerry-wielding friends, colleagues, and business contacts are BBMing.

BBM on Android and iOS could accelerate migration away from RIM

Although it pains me to say it as a longtime BlackBerry user and faithful Canadian (RIM is a Canadian firm), I would gladly replace my BlackBerry with an iPhone or Android device if they worked with BBM. Far more than push email and a physical keyboard, BBM is the key feature that keeps me a BlackBerry user. RIM knows that BBM gives it an advantage among any users, as it smartly plays up in its BBM user experience and exclusivity in BlackBerry advertising campaigns.

RIM fiscal 3Q11 revenue

Considering the tight race RIM is facing against Google's Android ecosystem and Apple and how important BBM is to keeping users on a BlackBerry device, I was surprised to read that RIM may be planning to offer BBM on non-BlackBerry devices. This move is increasingly difficult to understand when one looks at RIM's revenue by source from its latest fiscal quarter ended Nov. 27, 2010.

The Devices category represents revenue from smartphone sales. The Service category represents revenue from carriers for every active BlackBerry device on the carrier's network. The Software category represents revenue from the sale of packaged software.

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