In a move that should surprise exactly no one, BlackBerry is said to be thinking about spinning off BBM into its own subsidiary company called BBM Inc., says the Wall Street Journal. As BlackBerry faces the prospect of potentially having to part out its more valuable assets for sale, BBM is a natural opportunity that comes to mind, and the recent decision to take the messaging platform to both iOS and Android makes a lot more sense once you consider that a means of fluffing the brand prior to a potential sale.
Giving away the proprietary mojo of BBM made little to no sense if you didn’t consider this one of BlackBerry’s strategic plans down the road; the company has long-touted BBM as one of the primary reasons that people come to and stay faithful to BlackBerry. If you give them the opportunity to take BBM with them, there’s one less barrier to switching.
You can make the argument that BlackBerry has more to gain by encouraging BBM network growth once it starts offering stuff on multiple platforms, including ones that don’t have fast-dwindling user bases, and that it stands to gain additional revenue from those users via marketing or potential commercial services made available to BBM in the future. But the real reason to open up BBM is to put some shine on the apple at this stage of the game; accomplishing the kind of growth needed to make BBM a sustainable business would be tough in the face of the WhatsApps, LiNEs, and Kiks of the world, but you can still inject a fair amount of value for a prospective buyer by offering something that is platform agnostic.
BBM currently has around 60 million users, which is nothing to sneeze at even if it trails other messaging platforms. BlackBerry is also experimenting with one-to-many broadcasting via BBM Channels, and the WSJ says it’s looking into building desktop apps as well. The report also states that a cross-platform BBM has been tested internally for as long as three years, which means this was definitely held back as a last resort until it was clear BlackBerry-only BBM wasn’t going to mount a return to positive growth.