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Is BlackBerry Planning Its Own Skype?

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May 05, 2014

Is BlackBerry Planning Its Own Skype?

By Steve Anderson, Contributing TMCnet Writer

While BlackBerry (News - Alert) hasn't been on the good end of much in the way of news lately, there's no denying that the former powerhouse isn't giving up its market position without a fight. A new report suggests that BlackBerry may have a new service in mind that draws on the power of its BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service and allows its users to stay better connected, and said service is already being compared to Skype (News - Alert).

The biggest reason behind the comparison, according to reports, is that the BBM service in question may ultimately boast a voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) service in a bid to draw in more users to the service. The reports further suggest that BlackBerry regards the key to its ultimate future as having a substantial user base, and as such, is looking to expand its popular BBM service to more platforms, thus pulling in more users despite the fact that said users wouldn't actually be using BlackBerry devices. Indeed, the current word puts BBM arriving for Windows Mobile before the end of summer, with an expected arrival date within the next three months. Currently, at last report, the service is already available on Android (News - Alert), iOS, and can even be found on both Gingerbread and the Nokia X device.

It's a strategy that, on some levels, is working out quite well for BlackBerry; an approach that's taking multiple avenues to drive up the user numbers, while at the same time not looking to make its money from the user experience or from measures of user satisfaction overall. Currently, BBM has around 113 million registered users, and of this, a stunning 85 million are active users. Backing this up is the BBM shop, which allows users access to a slate of virtual goods, including a set of sticker packs that allow users access to more complicated emoticons for use in contacting others. BlackBerry is said to even be offering up a kind of subcontracting mechanism, allowing businesses to offer stickers through the BBM shop as a means to step up brand identity and customer engagement.

On a certain level, this is good news for the company. It's taking a closer look at its core competencies, what it does well and what it doesn't quite manage to pull off, and is working accordingly, offering users more tools based on these points. Indeed, there's a solid logic behind the idea of getting more users in on the BBM system; after all, if users see that BBM works well, it's not so out of line to suggest that these users may well turn to the BlackBerry line of devices, or even, in some cases, turn back to the BlackBerry line that such users had left for iOS, Android, or Windows Phone (News - Alert) devices. But by like token, it's easy to be skeptical that BlackBerry can win back support via a widely-used messenger system—with or without VoIP—and a set of digital stickers. It could be regarded as a good start, and indeed, the more users on hand the better off BlackBerry is, but if it's the whole package as opposed to a start it could fizzle out quickly. This is a good move for BlackBerry, regardless of its ultimate end. But whether it's merely a good start,  or a larger part of a bigger chain of good moves, that remains to be seen.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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