Is Research In Motion About to Hurt Itself?

I have a question for all of you BlackBerry users out there: What's so special about Research In Motion's (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) BlackBerry Messenger?

This is an honest question. Personally, I've never used it but the service is undeniably popular among BlackBerry owners. Here's a follow-up question to those who are hooked on BBM: If you could use BBM on a different platform, would you ditch your BlackBerry?

Earlier in the year, there were rumblings that RIM may be bringing BBM to Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) Android and Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) iOS to give those users a partial taste of the BBM experience. The goal would naturally be to try and coax some users into picking up a BlackBerry for a full-featured ride. Today, some leaked screenshots have emerged showing the popular messaging app running on an unnamed Android device.

Although the pictures themselves are somewhat suspect due to poor quality, they still add credibility to the possibility of BBM making its way to Android. I've already predicted that the new BBM Music service will be a flop, and this move also has the potential to backfire, since many users stick with their BlackBerrys specifically for BBM. If BBM becomes available on other platforms, there's no longer a compelling reason to stick with RIM. On the flipside, if BBM can reach a critical mass of users by snowballing network effects, it could have quite a valuable platform on its hands.

Group messaging is the latest battleground with many worthy contenders. Samsung is jumping in with its ChatOn service targeting iOS, Android, Blackberry, and its own Bada platforms. Facebook just launched its dedicated Messenger app, which leverages its existing network effects. Apple's iMessage is due out alongside iOS 5 and the iPhone 5 tomorrow and Google has a handful of innovative group messaging features.

I'm all about killing SMS, an antiquated and expensive service, to the protests of carriers like AT&T (NYSE: T  ) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) in favor of cheaper and technologically superior alternatives like those mentioned above.

Ultimately, I think RIM is shooting itself in the foot if it brings BBM to other platforms. The company is in a rut, and opening BBM up to the masses will just make it that much easier for on-the-fence customers to make the plunge and switch.

Fool contributor Evan Niu owns shares of Apple and AT&T, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Click here to see his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Research In Motion, and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of AT&T, Google, and Apple, as well as creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On October 03, 2011, at 4:16 PM, dundundundun wrote:

    This same article was published months ago. tsk tsk Evan. When I find it, Ill link it in.

  • Report this Comment On October 03, 2011, at 10:08 PM, BR14 wrote:

    RIM is highly unlikely ever to bring BBM to any other platform, largely because BBM uses RIM's secure protocols, and that would mean getting under hood of any other OS. Not likely so you needn't worry about them shooting themselves in the foot.

    We love BBM because it is unsurpassed as a messaging tool.

    Send a message to all your contacts at once or to groups of contacts. Share calendars or lists with a BBM group. Share music with BBM Music.

    Secure reliable messaging with loads of features and pretty well instantaneous delivery anywhere in the world.

    Others may come close, but no one has the whole package. Even Apples iMessage - which will still have quite a way to go before it matches the reliability and function of BBM.

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