BlackBerry is sharing its crown jewels - BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) - with non-BlackBerry devices for the first time: and the lucky punters are Samsung fandroids in Africa.
The instant-messaging app will be free, compatible with the Android-powered Galaxy range of handsets, and offer all the important BBM functionality including receipted delivery and group chats. It will open BBM to a whole new audience; the messaging software is considered a killer exclusive feature keeping users loyal to BlackBerry.
While BlackBerry handsets are perceived as enterprise devices they have over the past decade, seeped into the youth market where free messaging is a killer feature. SMS remains hugely popular within that demographic and BBM offers a comparable, if improved, experience without the expense.
So predominant is BBM amongst 'da yoof that the company's secure messaging service was supposedly used by looters to organise themselves beyond the reach of law enforcement during the 2011 London riots. That was nonsense, of course: BlackBerry is a law-abiding company that cooperated fully with the police, while looters just followed the camera crews to get where the action was, but the accusation demonstrates how popular BBM has become outside the office.
But with customers buying a BlackBerry handset just to get into the BBM network the company is taking a risk opening it up to competing platforms, though BBM has distinct advantages over the competition and could grab a decent slice of an expanding market.
Samsung is also taking some risk, though perhaps not so much. The South Koreans have been trying to get their own ChatOn service adopted by youth, or anyone else really, without much success. ChatOn is part of Samsung's if-anyone-else-does-it-we'll-do-it-too strategy and lies unused on most of the company's hardware.
BBM will be integrated into the Samsung Communications Hub, as an addition to ChatOn and the other messaging services that Samsung supports by default, and should spread outside Africa pretty quickly. But the long-term implications of opening the BBM platform will take a good while to resolve. ®