WSJ: BlackBerry's board considering spinning out BBM as a separate company
The spinoff, to be called BBM, Inc. would be spun out from BlackBerry and polished up to make it more desirable to buyers. Some executives have already moved over to the new entity which is working on features beyond messaging, like video chat which is already available to BlackBerry users. In addition, BBM will be made available to the iOS and Android platform sometime this summer, the first time that the messaging platform has been offered on non-BlackBerry phones. Samsung has already started promoting BBM as it comes closer to becoming available on its Galaxy smartphones in Africa.
Later this summer, BlackBerry will make BBM available as an app in the Google Play Store for Android users and in the Apple App Store for iOS users. BlackBerry will try to compete against other third party messaging apps like WhatsApp. The latter has more than 200 million members versus 60 million for BBM. BlackBerry will also introduce BBM Channels, a feature similar to Twitter that will bring companies and celebrities closer to consumers and fans. There is even talk of making some BlackBerry features available for desktop computers.
Many of the problems afflicting BlackBerry have been blamed on past management's inability to see the Apple iPhone as a legitimate threat when it launched in 2007. According to the Journal, a multi-platform version of BBM was available three years ago. At the same time, a desktop version was also in use internally. Both ideas got scrapped by the prior management team but are now being revived by current management.
BlackBerry's board could still decide to sell the entire company, put up for sale other parts instead of BBM, or the board could decide to do nothing. The company had high hopes for its new BlackBerry 10 line but the BlackBerry Z10, BlackBerry Q10 and BlackBerry Q5 have underwhelmed critically and in the stores. A 5 inch all-touch model, the BlackBerry Aristo, is expected to launch in November but could be considered DOA by smartphone buyers who will have the Apple iPhone 5S and Apple iPhone 5C to consider as well as the Samsung Galaxy Note III, the LG G2 and the Sony Xperia Z1. There remains a contingent of BlackBerry fans who say that they will stick with the OEM through thick and thin, but it might be BlackBerry's board that has the final say about how BlackBerry will look in the immediate future.