BlackBerry Weighs Messenger Spinoff
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I wouldn't normally quote an entire article here, but since WSJ is subscription only, and this was sent to me in an email, I thought I would share. I tried to break up the article so it's not so hard on the eyes.
BlackBerry Weighs Messenger Spinoff (Wall Street Journal)
BlackBerry Ltd. is considering spinning off its messaging service into a subsidiary that would operate with more independence, according to people familiar with the matter. The Waterloo, Ontario-based smartphone maker is working to revive BlackBerry Messenger even as it pursues a strategic review that could result in a sale of the company. The subsidiary would be called BBM Inc., according to people familiar with the matter.
The move signals that BlackBerry is trying to position BBM as a valuable asset ahead of a potential sale. BlackBerry has been shifting executives over to the BBM team and has been working on a number of offerings beyond messaging, including some tools already available to BlackBerry users, like video chatting, these people said. Chief Executive Thorsten Heins said in May that BBM would this summer become available for the first time on smartphones other than BlackBerrys, an attempt to compete with messaging services like WhatsApp and WeTalk that have overtaken BBM in popularity. BBM has about 60 million users, according to BlackBerry. WhatsApp, which was developed by a Mountain View, California-based startup, has more than 200 million active users.
BlackBerry will also introduce a previously announced service called BBM Channels, a Twitter-like tool meant to allow brands and celebrities to more closely interact with customers and fans. It is also considering making BBM available for desktop computers, according to a person familiar with the matter. "We have announced our plans to offer this trusted mobile messaging service to iPhone and Android users sometime this summer," a BlackBerry spokeswoman said. "We have made no further announcements."
"We haven't announced any initiatives to bring BBM to the desktop," the spokeswoman added. The moves come after BlackBerry, hit by stalling sales and a shrinking customer base, said earlier this month that its board of directors had established a special committee to explore strategic alternatives, which include the possibility of an outright sale of the company.
Though the company has lost its dominance in the global smartphone market, BBM remains widely popular around the world. With these new efforts, BlackBerry appears to envision BBM as a competitor not just with messaging tools like WhatsApp but also with much bigger Internet companies, including Twitter and even Skype. While weighing BlackBerry's assets in the event of a sale, most analysts don't factor in BBM separately. "We think there is a great opportunity in bringing BBM to other platforms as people look for the right service to have even more engaged conversations on their smartphones," the BlackBerry spokeswoman said. "People are also becoming leery of how they share their personal information and mobile communication services need to be built for that. They are also looking for a simple, customizable interface and BBM brings that."
Many of these planned offerings have been in progress internally for years. A working cross-platform BBM service had been operable and ready to launch as far back as three years ago, according to people close to the company, before executives decided not to proceed. A desktop version of BBM had also been running internally years ago, according to this person, but executives chose not to bring that offering to the public either.
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