RIM today confirmed earlier reports it was planning a transactional service attached to BBM that would allow for direct money transfers and put a name to the service – BBM Money. In an interview with the BBC, Managing Director of RIM’s South Asia operations Hastings Singh said that the company will be launching BBM Money in Indonesia first beginning “shortly,” allowing anyone with a BlackBerry to transfer money directly to other BlackBerry owners.
Thorsten Heins had previously suggested that such a service was on the way when he suggested that BBM is a “very strong platform not just for communication,” but potentially also for “transacting money” during a visit to Jakarta back in October. At the time, RIM offered few additional details, saying he wanted to keep “surprises” in store for Indonesian users. Now it looks like the service will take the form of a straightforward peer-to-peer transfer network, which will allow users to then withdraw the money they receive through the service via bank cash machines.
Why Indonesia first? There are a number of reasons, including the prevalence of BlackBerry devices in that country. RIM has a strong foothold there, claiming a 56 percent market share, Heins said in October. But IDC stats show that Android devices are used by 52 percent of the population (more than a few users have more than one device type) and seem to be on the rise. Offering services unique to the Indonesian market, which represents a fair chunk of RIM’s remaining global revenues, is a way to both show that the company is appreciative and turns back a fair chunk of wandering eyes.
BBM Money is also pretty much tailor-made for usage habits of BlackBerry and BBM in the country. In Indonesia, BBM is a popular way to set up and organize peer-to-peer transactions, so allowing people to pay directly through the service for goods and services essentially closes the loop. Adding more capabilities to BBM also helps differentiate it from the growing number of competitive services, which include Apple’s iMessage and Facebook Messenger, as well as standalone third-party apps like Kik and WhatsApp.
Indonesia isn’t actually an unusual choice for BlackBerry firsts – The Wall Street Journal launched an Indonesia-localized BB app in November, a first for the company. But despite debuting in Indonesia, there’s no reason RIM should keep something like BBM Money fenced into a specific locale. So long as it is well received, and the economics of operating it work out, I’d suspect there’s a good chance we’ll see it reach more markets in time.
No word on when exactly the service will hit or whether it will be tied to the early 2013 BB10 launch just yet, but we’ve reached out to RIM for more details and will update when they become available.
Update: RIM provided the following statement, which, while tantalizingly oblique, does little to answer any of our specific questions:
As demonstrated by recent announcements such as the beta of BBM with voice calling, our focus is to continue to evolve the real-time engagement and sharing experience for the 60 million BBM customers around the world. Adding mobile commerce functionality is one of several extensions to BBM we are investigating, and which would be a logical direction in which to take BBM. When we launch additional services, we’ll make further announcements.