Research in Motion (NSDQ: RIMM) may be contemplating offering a version of one of its most popular applications–BlackBerry Messenger–for a rival phone.
So say little birdies whispering in the ear of the Boy Genius Report, which wrote Thursday that RIM is getting ready to release a version of BlackBerry Messenger for Google’s Android software, and is also contemplating porting the app to Apple’s iOS. Representatives from RIM declined to comment, but the move makes a certain amount of sense.
BlackBerry is still huge in North America, tied with Apple in the U.S. when it comes to smartphone share measured by hardware vendors. But this is a market it once owned, and it’s fair to say that there has been a lack of enthusiasm and excitement around BlackBerry for quite some time as Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) and Android rose to prominence among consumers and developers.
Still, there’s one thing that RIM and the BlackBerry do really well: group communication. BlackBerry Messenger is an app that lets BlackBerry subscribers trade instant messages, photos, and other updates with one another, and at the moment it’s only available to BlackBerry owners.
But opening up BlackBerry Messenger to other phones could allow RIM to get a lot more new people using its services. GigaOm rightly wonders if “a move to open up BBM may be a sign that RIM realizes its strengths now lie in its network and in providing back-end services to enterprise users, and not in making phones, at least not anymore,” comparing the possibility to IBM ditching PC hardware in favor of concentrating on providing services to big businesses.
At the moment RIM is trying to move past its good-hardware-crappy-software reputation by focusing on its QNX software that will run atop the forthcoming Playbook tablet. But selectively bringing the most compelling parts of the BlackBerry experience to other phones might be an interesting way of creating a spark without having to make a huge investment.