Research In Motion Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) had a busy Tuesday, as it made a plethora of major announcements at its BlackBerry Live conference. Perhaps most interestingly, the company announced that it’s bringing two of its signature features — BlackBerry Messenger and secure device management — to devices running Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)‘s iOS and Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)‘s Android.
From one perspective, these announcements seem like an admission of defeat from Research In Motion Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY). By offering BBM and secure device management services on iOS and Android devices, BlackBerry is giving up some of its key differentiating factors vis-a-vis those platforms. However, it’s also possible to see these announcements in a more positive light. By expanding its services beyond the BlackBerry platform, Research In Motion Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) can engage new potential customers and better monetize the value of its intellectual property.
Opening up BBM
The BBM instant messaging service has long been one of BlackBerry’s signature features, but its utility has been declining as BlackBerry’s market share has dropped. BlackBerry wants to bolster BBM’s value by making it available to iPhone and Android users; moreover, BBM will be a free app. While other cross-platform messaging systems like WhatsApp already exist, BBM has a strong base with 60 million users who send and receive 10 billion messages a day. This should help the BBM app become relatively popular.
Obviously, this move creates the risk that some Research In Motion Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) subscribers will defect to one of the rival platforms, because they can now keep using BBM. However, the upside is much bigger, as making BBM available for free on rival platforms can expose iOS and Android users to BBM and (hopefully) rehabilitate the BlackBerry brand. If BlackBerry can persuade some iPhone users to adopt BBM rather than iMessage, it will also offset some of the platform stickiness that is BlackBerry’s biggest long-term obstacle.
Eventually, BlackBerry may find a way to monetize BBM on non-BlackBerry devices. Even if it doesn’t, the app will essentially provide free marketing for BlackBerry on rival platforms while also increasing the value of the BBM service for BB10 users.
Mobile device management
BlackBerry also announced on Tuesday that version 10.1 of its BlackBerry Enterprise Service was available for download. Whereas previous versions of BBES have just provided security and mobile device management for BlackBerry devices, the new version will also support iOS and Android devices.
In many ways, this is an even more important product for Research In Motion Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY). The company has long been the leader in mobile device security, but the popularity of the iPhone and Android devices has forced governments and enterprises to find third-party solutions to secure employees’ phones. The new BBES will allow companies with “bring your own device” policies to use a BlackBerry security solution running on a single server for all BlackBerry, iOS, and Android devices.