Despite its recent acquisition, BlackBerry announced it will be releasing a desktop BBM app at BlackBerry Jam Asia 2013 this week. Unfortunately, the long-overdue app leaves much to be desired. BBM will come to desktops, starting with Windows-based PCs. Since the bulk of BlackBerry’s core customers were enterprise clients, these customers spent a lot of time behind their desks. This release should have come way earlier. But even more striking, the desktop implementation of the messaging service is awful.
After installing the app, users will have to link their phones with their computers, probably through Wi-Fi. If you’re in a coffee shop and want to send a quick message from your laptop, you’ll first have to find a way to connect your phone to your computer. It’s the PlayBook nonsense all over again.
Messaging someone should be ubiquitous and effortless. You shouldn’t have to wonder whether your phone is still turned on to send a message from your computer. Some applications allow you to send text messages from your computer. But the point of BBM is that it’s not SMS — it’s supposed to be better. Moreover, BBM messages go through BlackBerry’s servers, just like Facebook messages, iMessages, WhatsApp messages, etc. And these other services don’t reroute all your messages through your phone.
That’s why limiting BBM to one device at a time is a serious flaw that should have been fixed. Many people have a phone, a tablet and a computer and want to use the same services on those three devices. In its current implementation, that’s not possible without a dirty hack for BBM. Due to multitasking limitations, iOS users will even sometimes need to relaunch the app to deliver the desktop messages — that is, if BlackBerry can fix their servers and actually launch BBM for iOS and Android.
There is no release date yet, and the company only showed the Windows version at the conference. WhatsApp doesn’t have a desktop client, so you might say that BBM’s release is better than nothing. But BBM for desktop 2.0 will have to be more than a simple interface that redirects your messages to your phone. For now, it’s just an empty shell.
Update: It turns out that what was demoed on stage is a way to extend BlackBerry 10 to the desktop. Here’s a statement from Chris Smith, Vice President, Handheld Application Platform and Tools at BlackBerry:
“This was a demonstration that showed how applications could be projected from a BlackBerry 10 device onto a computer running Windows or Mac OS. In the demo, the power of BlackBerry 10 is used to sense the connection, over Wifi or USB, then adapt the user interface and mirror the content onto the desktop monitor.
The concept demo was used to demonstrate just one of the possibilities of mobile computing – and to showcase the capabilities built into the BlackBerry 10 platform that our developer community could leverage in their own apps.”