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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.