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9/30/2013
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BlackBerry: BBM For Android, iOS Coming

BlackBerry insists botched roll-out doesn't mean the app has been nixed. It may be dead on arrival anyway.

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BlackBerry took to its Twitter account to reaffirm its commitment to BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) for Android and iOS devices. The company said it is "100% committed" to releasing its messaging application, but did not say when to expect it.

BlackBerry's cryptic tweet is the first word from the struggling smartphone maker regarding BBM since Sept. 23, when it explained what happened with the app's scrapped roll out. The company intended to release BBM for Android and iOS on Sept. 21 and 22. Instead, it claims there were problems with a leaked version of the app that caused incompatibility issues.

BlackBerry executive VP of BBM Andrew Bocking said the app would be re-released, but provided no information on when. The company suggested that people interested in BBM for their device should check the dedicated BBM website, as well as follow @BBM on Twitter.

BlackBerry Messenger, more widely known as BBM, is BlackBerry's proprietary instant-messaging service. It is one of the most popular features of BlackBerry smartphones, as it powers device-to-device messaging without chewing up customers' text messaging allotment. The push service includes read receipts and, with the new BlackBerry 10 operating system, offers screen sharing and voice/video chats, too.

[ Will going private help BlackBerry recover? See Can BlackBerry Be Saved By Fairfax Buy? ]

Despite BlackBerry's commitment to release the application, there's little evidence that it will be used by mobile device owners. Earlier this year, CEO Thorsten Heins said that BBM has 60 million monthly users. That sounds like a lot, until you compare it to the competition. WhatsApp, a popular cross-platform messaging app, counts more than 200 million monthly users. Skype, another cross-platform messaging app, is even bigger, boasting 280 million monthly users. That's more than four times the size of BBM's active user base. Monday, Samsung boasted that there are now more than 100 million users of its ChatON mobile messaging service.

WhatsApp and Skype have been able to achieve those numbers because they run on Android, BlackBerry, iOS and Windows Phone devices, in addition to PCs. BlackBerry may boost its BBM user base once the Android and iOS versions actually appear, but consumers' faith in BlackBerry has been significantly shaken. With so many options in the market, including Google's own Hangouts and Apple's iMessage, it's unclear what advantage BBM offers.

The company announced last week a massive $1 billion write-down due to unsold Z10 inventory. BlackBerry has resorted to selling its smartphones to consumers directly through its website. (The Z10 goes for $449 and the Q10 goes for $549.) Further, T-Mobile said last week that it would no longer stock BlackBerry smartphones in its stores. Last, BlackBerry is on the verge of being acquired by private investors.

BlackBerry's collapse has been painful to watch. Can BBM for Android and iOS stall its descent? Probably not.

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