Research In Motion Isn't Listening

I guess Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) can't take a hint.

The BlackBerry maker rolled out its social music app yesterday. We've generally had a bad feeling about BBM Music since it was initially announced three months ago.

  • "Color me skeptical," Tim Beyers says. "Don't expect it to add color to RIM's otherwise bleak profit picture."
  • "I'll go as far as to make a prediction: One year from today, BBM Music will be gone, dismissed as a failed experiment, while RIM's market share drops into single-digit territory," Evan Niu forecasts.
  • "Social music is something that even the successful companies haven't been able to get right, so why is RIM wasting its time here?" I say. "This service is likely to last about as long as a punk song."

 Well, I guess it's time to cue up "Blitzkrieg Bop."

Search and destroy
It's easy to see why Tim, Evan, and I aren't holding out a whole lot of hope for yesterday's launch of BBM Music.

The product is flawed from the start. BlackBerry jockeys can pay $5 a month for the service that gives subscribers access to 50 songs out of a category of millions of tracks in any given month. They can swap out 25 tracks during the course of the month.

It seems like a pointless value proposition, but RIM is banking on some viral magic. See, if you can sucker a BlackBerry friend into joining BBM Music, you can share your 100 combined tracks. Keep going and you can keep expanding your library. You'd better hope that your friends like good music!

There are a few fatal flaws here. The first, of course, is that social sharing of music has been a disaster even for the tech giants. Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) Ping has been a rare dud for the Cupertino darling. Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) tried to differentiate its Zune from the more popular iPod with a social sharing element, and history can tell you how well that went.

Another major problem is that folks can get pretty self-conscious when it comes to sharing playlists. It's no longer about the 50 songs you want to hear. It's about the 50 songs that you want your friends to think you want to hear.

I haven't been using Spotify as often as I was before its integration with Facebook. I know I can turn the social connection off, but I just don't always feel like publicizing what I'm listening to. If I'm craving some Air Supply or Hall & Oates, the last thing I want is to open myself up to ridicule. Fair warning to my Facebook friends: I'm in a Devo and Toto mood today.

Sonic reducer
Freeloaders have a version of BBM Music that is limited to 30-second samples. In other words, as far as social music is concerned, it's sorely lacking in the music.

Because this is BlackBerry, it's also sorely lacking in the social.

Let's be frank: Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) Android and Apple are the growing platforms in the consumer space. You know, the folks who are actually listening to music on their phones?

BlackBerrys typically belong to either smartphone pioneers who are wavering on platform loyalty or those cradling corporate-issued devices because old-school IT departments don't trust iOS and Android. These aren't the type of smartphone owners that load up their handsets with music. They probably aren't even donning earbuds.

It's wrong for me to generalize. I'm sure that Pandora (NYSE: P  ) and Sirius XM Radio (Nasdaq: SIRI  ) wouldn't have rolled out streaming BlackBerry apps if there was no interest in their music. However, it's just not much of a market for BlackBerry itself to roll out a proprietary platform that may anger some of its developers.

Waiting room
Evan thinks BBM Music will be dead in a year. I predict it may be sooner, but RIM may keep it alive just so it doesn't seem like a short-lived failure. That's what it's doing with the PlayBook now anyway, isn't it? No one's buying it, yet RIM is delaying the release of 2.0 instead of giving it a proper burial.

RIM wants to make it seem as if it's resonating with consumers by swan diving with the PlayBook and belly flopping with BBM Music. It doesn't seem to care that it forgot to fill the pool with water.

BBM Music is either a case of a sad company that doesn't realize its place in the scheme of things or a brilliant facade to buy itself some time to smoke out a gullible suitor. It would be cool if it was the latter, but with RIM's luck it's probably the former.

If you want to see how the smartphone battle plays out, follow the relevant companies by adding Google, Research In Motion, and Apple to My Watchlist.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Google, Microsoft, and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple, Microsoft, and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended 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.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz calls them as he sees them. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.


Read/Post Comments (4) | Recommend This Article (2)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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 November 03, 2011, at 11:51 AM, songlover wrote:

    Sorry, but I think inaccurate, sir.

    "You better hope that your friends like good music!"

    - They do not have to be "friends" at all. 10,000 full-length songs are very easy to obtain. What's "good" in your book, just the top 10 on the radio?

    "social sharing of music has been a disaster even for the tech giants."

    - Whatever happened to taking your collection over to someone's house and having a "record party?" It's back, but you don't need to be there. This is the connected generation.

    "folks can get pretty self-conscious when it comes to sharing playlists. I just don't always feel like publicizing what I'm listening to."

    - Seriously? I believe you're unique. Or maybe just the wrong demographic.

    "Because this is BlackBerry, it's also sorely lacking in the social."

    - In reality, BBM is THE preferred chat/photo-and-file sharing client among students. And students have a rather loose definition of "friend" as Facebook has proven.

  • Report this Comment On November 03, 2011, at 4:50 PM, TMFBreakerRick wrote:

    Songlover, welcome to the Fool. I'm glad this article encouraged you to join and make your first post.

    However, did you see what you did there? Taking the subtle jab at "top 10" pop radio? That validates the very point I was trying to make that folks will be stuck with the 50 songs that they want others to believe they like to hear instead of what they really want to hear.

    I also think you may want to check on market share trends before calling BBM the "preferred" platform for the youth.

  • Report this Comment On November 03, 2011, at 6:15 PM, BR14 wrote:

    Fair amount of misrepresentation going on here. But that's hardly a surprise among the RIM shorting media.

    BBM allows you access to thousands songs for $5 a month. They've partnered with several high value catalogs.

    Biggest danger I can see is the record companies pulling the plug - after all it doesn't cost RIM much to run the service.

    You've a far too US centric view of the world. BlackBerry is number 1 in the UK and elsewhere where it is used precisely because of its ability as a social platform. (Not to mention value for money).

    BBM music is actually a pretty cool app and $5 isn't much to pay for access to so many records.

    Having said that, if you have no friends I can see how it might not appeal.

  • Report this Comment On November 03, 2011, at 7:42 PM, ampezzi wrote:

    Another good article against Rimm.

    Something in American media is wrong...

    I think is time to change target also for you.

    People in the world have differents point of view.

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