PAUL OMOROGBE writes on BlackBerry’s new alliance that enables its famous BBM application go beyond chat alone and become a hub for messaging, social and commercial activities.
With the proliferation of smartphones and the flood gates for data opened up, the widespread use of smartphone applications has just begun. The most popular category of these is chat applications with users spending 90 minutes to two hours daily on them. Little wonder BlackBerry has announced that it is teaming up with another company, PT Elang Mahkota Teknologi Tbk (Emtek) to revamp its popular BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) chat app. It was because of BBM that the term “pinging” became popular in local parlance. BBM was the major attraction when Blackberry phones were still making the waves in Nigeria. However, in recent time, BBM’s top spot in chat has been taken over by Whatsapp largely because of the latter’s simplicity and ease of use.
“Emtek’s impressive background and pedigree in entertainment, content and technology makes them the perfect partner to maximize the potential of BlackBerry’s messaging platform while meeting our financial and operational goals,” said John Chen, Executive Chairman and CEO, BlackBerry. “Our BBM users are passionate people that truly value BBM as the best way to share and connect with each other. We wanted to continue to offer our users even more with the most content-rich media and new services such as e-commerce, video, music and games.”
“We see significant opportunity to grow the consumer BBM business globally and are excited to invest in research and development to further advance BBM,” said Alvin Sariaatmadja, CEO of Emtek.
The aim of the alliance between BlackBerry and Emtek is to make BBM more than just a chat app, but to give BBM users the ability to do more within the chat environment. The latest version of BBM will give users access to greater content including music and video streaming, games, sports and news channels, celebrity blogs; commerce, booking movies, travel, health services or job postings. Financial services will also be made possible with the new BBM that will enable users carry out payment processing, money transfer, mobile phone recharge and utilities billing.
In a phone interview with Nigerian Tribune, Matthew Talbot, Senior Vice President – Emerging Solutions at BlackBerry said the alliance will significantly aid the development of both the BBM platform and help accelerate the user base across Africa – particularly within the core regions of South Africa and Nigeria. He said Emtek’s digital content arm, KMK Online, will bring significant value and services to BBM.
“Emtek will operate, run and develop BBM going forward. We are opening up BBM. We want to deliver more content and services around this key application so that users can have a more engaging experience. BBM is still a global application for the public. We will be having content like BBM Video for streaming videos and BBM News for news to be published.
“In Nigeria we have launched services like top-up to recharge mobile phones, and shopping; we will continue to bring more content to the local market,” Talbot told Nigerian Tribune.
Speaking on the challenge posed by Whatsapp due to its simplicity, Talbot said, “Whatsapp is purely a chat application. From our research, people are looking for more than just chat.”
He explained that, “At the end of July, we re-launched the (BBM) app with mobile number registration. Historically, sign up was with a PIN number. We have not taken away the PIN number, but we have enabled users sign up with their phone number in a very simple way similar to Whatsapp.”
He added that the use of phone number for registration makes both authentication and finding friends to connect with easier. “Through our channel mechanism and our Discovery button now you will start to see more content and services integrated. We are bringing chat, social and commerce together.”