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Coulda' Been a Contender? BlackBerry Messenger a Hit in Apple and Android App Stores


The once-innovative company could live on as a software developer.

BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) just opened up one of its most valuable assets, but unfortunately, it might be past its relevance.

BlackBerry Messenger is now finally available on the Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Play Store for Android and for the Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone. On the App Store, it already tops the list of most popular iOS free apps as 5 million users downloaded the app in less than eight hours. BBM was so popular that the early release is only limited to those 6 million who signed up months in advanced. Everyone else has to wait.

This situation brings to mind how Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Office used to be unavailable to Mac users. At that time, the big reason for buying a Windows PC was because all of the software, including the all-important Office, was only available for PCs. Once Apple figured out how to get OSX to play nice with an Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) chip, Office for the Mac was released, and it became harder to say that you needed a PC.

Just a few short years ago, BBM was that killer app that brought people to BlackBerry. Businesses liked the security, and everyone else just seemed to be addicted to the CrackBerry messenger. It owned instant messaging. Like the social networks that we sort of hate but can't leave, the fact that your friends and co-workers used it meant that you needed it.

This was before Google Hangouts, iMessage, FaceTime, Snapchat, Kik, WhatsApp, and all of the other IM and mobile texting services were a reality. Before there were options, BBM was the envy of everyone else, just like Google Maps was to iPhone users for a while. If BBM was available on multiple platforms, it could have obviated the other messaging apps, and there would be a place for the once-innovative Canadian company to survive as the way to message on the go. But now, it might be too late. The playing field is wider, and the first-mover advantage is gone.

The rollout onto other platforms was attempted a month ago, but as The Register says, 1 million Android users installed pirated versions of its early app before the official release, causing backend problems that forced the company to withdraw its iOS and Android apps. NDTV says that the app is working fairly well, but sending attachments is a bit wonky.

The question now is whether this will affect the company's attempts to go private and stay alive. The initial $4.7 billion buyout offer from Fairfax was only tentative, and it might not even get the financing lined up. There are reports that China's Lenovo Group (OTCMKTS:LNVGY) has signed a non-disclosure agreement to buy the company. Security analysts say that the US military sees the BlackBerry as the only phone that the Chinese haven't hacked yet, so US and Canadian officials will probably block a Lenovo acquisition.

As for consumers? Now that BBM can no longer be used as the justification for buying a BlackBerry handset, $1 billion of which were just written down, potential buyers might be wondering what they are really getting in Waterloo, Ontario.

Twitter: @vincent_trivett

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