Samsung is using the upcoming launch of BBM for Android (still just “coming soon”) to promote its Galaxy devices, Samsung App Store and Messaging Hub in a new release targeting the African market. BlackBerry is in on the push, with the two entering into an agreement to jointly market the service to African mobile customers. It’s a hint at what BlackBerry wants to do with BBM, now that it’s opening access to its proprietary messaging platform.
BBM has long been a staple in terms of one-to-one communication on mobile devices, and recently BlackBerry debuted BBM Groups, which allow for one-to-many broadcasts using the same messaging tools BBM users are used to. Especially in some key developing markets, including Indonesia and Africa, BBM has underpinned not only communication, but local commerce and business as well as a pretty much universal means of communication that’s more reliable, more affordable and potentially more trustworthy than SMS.
The tag-team promotional efforts are telling: they show that not only is BlackBerry releasing its messenger for users on iOS and Android, it’s going to be actively involved in promoting that availability, even where it seems to run counter to its own interests. Samsung benefits here by being able to offer users new to its platform a familiar and trusted means of communication, giving them even more reason to continue to migrate away from dedicated BlackBerry devices; what BlackBerry gains isn’t so immediately apparent.
BlackBerry is looking at a dwindling user base, both for its devices and across its services, so what it gains from the deal is access to a growth market. Giving up the BBM platform advantage may cause some to scratch their heads, but it’s not much of an advantage anymore, which is clear from the dwindling BlackBerry market share. At this point, it matters little if the company adds fuel to the fire by expanding availability to iOS and Android devices.
In terms of potential upside, BlackBerry could lock in more users for a platform that could become very valuable in terms of data, advertising and other initiatives like BBM Money. If, in partnering with competitors to reach more users, it makes it easier for a few platform-jumpers, that’s a small price to pay at this stage in the game.