Blackberry Partners with Samsung to Bring BBM to Android

by Jeff Wiener on August 8, 2013

Blackberry has loosened its proprietary grip on its Blackberry Messenger (BBM) service, as the company has struck an agreement with smartphone rival Samsung—although truthfully their rivalry stands as a modern day David and Goliath story—to include BBM on the latter’s Galaxy line-up of Android smartphones in the burgeoning African mobile market.

Long a staple of mobile messaging, BBM has been one of the most successful and sought after features of the Blackberry operating system. To wit, it wasn’t long after BBM’s release that mobile rival Apple, a company who at the time was unwilling to follow anyone’s lead, developed its own proprietary messaging platform, iMessage, hoping to horn in on Blackberry’s territory.

Due to Blackberry’s recent struggles, however, it was really just a matter of time before the Waterloo company started to look for other ways to get its brand to market, and its partnership with Samsung in the African market to get BBM on Android is evidence of the company’s new Google-like strategy, getting its services, rather than devices, into people’s hands. But will such a plan help Blackberry recover?

While Blackberry may have lost its shine here in the North American market, there’s no question that BBM remains a staple in mobile one-to-one communication. Evidenced by the number of copycats like Apple’s iMessage, there’s always been a need for messaging services that allow users to circumvent restrictive contract texting options, and while that need is diminishing here, the desire for BBM in emerging markets like Africa is only beginning, so its really not surprising to see Blackberry partner with Samsung to get in on the ground floor.

As TechCrunch writer Darrell Etherington explains, “Especially in some key developing markets, includingIndonesiaandAfrica, BBM has underpinned not only communication, but local commerce and business as well as a pretty much universal means of communication that’s more reliable, more affordable and potentially more trustworthy than SMS.”

For Samsung’s part, the deal with Blackberry to incorporate BBM into its Galaxy franchise really is a no-brainer. The Korean tech giant will incorporate BBM into its Samsung Messaging Hub that comes preinstalled on all the company’s Galaxy Android smartphones, allowing it to attract Blackberry users to its Android platform with the promise of the BBM messaging services they’re used too.

Of course the inclusion of BBM on Android phones gives Blackberry users just one more reason to migrate away from Blackberry and towards Android, so don’t worry if you’re struggling to see the gains Blackberry is trying to make here.

Clearly Blackberry knows it no longer has the resources to compete in burgeoning smartphone markets the way it was able to do here less than a decade ago, but it also understands it still has the tools burgeoning mobile markets want and need. While giving up proprietary control of BBM may confuse some people, the truth of Blackberry’s situation is that if it can’t access these burgeoning markets is some way, it’ll be selling off BBM in short order anyways.

So what does Blackberry get out of this deal with Samsung? In short, access to growth markets. No longer able to compete on a hardware level, its clear Blackberry is taking a page from Google, reaching more users by diffusing its extant services (like BBM Group, BBM Money etc…) across multiple platforms. If such a strategy results in increased use of Blackberry services, and perhaps some migration away from Android, then I’d count it as a win…of sorts.

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