Joshua Kevin is a former blogger at Tech in Asia and former community manager at KakaoTalk Indonesia. Now, he’s working on his own startup which he hopes to have fully launched early next year. You can follow him on Twitter, @jshkvn.
Losing a billion dollars in a quarter and then firing 4,500 employees are both tough realities for the company that used to have a $100 billion valuation. But this last ditch effort to help the company survive is being used by millions of people. It’s a logical move and doesn’t come as a surprise, but it might be too little, too late.
As I mentioned before, the Asian-made messenger platforms like KakaoTalk (with more than 100 million users), LINE (more than 200 million users), and WeChat (more than 400 million downloads, with 236 million active users) are beating Blackberry Messenger by far in both numbers and revenue (since BBM doesn’t generate revenue, per se). The younger generation, who prefer features such as cute emoticons and social games, has deemed the BBM obsolete. It’s also prone to delayed messages and sometimes even undelivered messages. Furthermore, it won’t come with voice or video messages at launch.
Yet one of BlackBerry’s biggest markets, Indonesia, was excited when the company unofficially released its app last Saturday. About one million people managed to download and install the application without Blackberry announcing its App Store/Item Store official link. That caused its server to “crash” and the company announced that it will delay the launching.
The messenger is still in demand despite people already moving on to new devices. In fact, most people i meet nowadays carry two smartphones – one BlackBerry and either an iPhone or Android device. What if it actually manage to retain its users in Indonesia, or even other important markets? Who is threatened by BBM?
My analysis and personal opinion suggests WhatsApp, with its simlar interface and function as a simple and fast messaging which preferred by enterprise, corporate, or mature users. The app, with 250 million users worldwide, might see its users in Indonesia or other Blackberry strongholds move back to BBM. Reason being, WhatsApp doesn’t really offer any incentive or additional features compared to BBM.
It is still possible for Blackberry to evolve the messaging application into a platform. It might be too late, but it could be the life saver and a new revenue driver for the company that will soon be bought for $4.6 billion. It has showed a vision of being a platform with the BBM Money feature, but it has to do more than just be a payment gateway; it needs to push more features on top of its messaging platform. Thousands of people in Indonesia still use applications to buy and sell things. This is an opportunity that other messaging platforms haven’t touched yet, at least in Indonesia.
That being said, I personally tried to download BBM on my iPhone. Because I could not restore my contacts from my missing Blackberry, I uninstalled it right away. I have four other messengers on my iPhone now, and I don’t see a reason yet to install another unless it evolves into something that my friends use.
(Editing by Terence Lee and Paul Bischoff)