The Future of BlackBerry Takes a Turn with the Launch of BBM Channels

When BlackBerry first hit the consumer electronics scene in 1999, it was a game-changer. The device allowed people to stay connected, while mobile, to their businesses. BlackBerry’s strongest feature was its messaging and e-mail capabilities. The company continued to focus on these capabilities in its expansion, capitalizing on business oriented communications. While BlackBerry dominated the market for a while, its continued focus on its emailing and messaging prevented device developers from looking at other possibilities. In a sense, BlackBerry neglected the idea that consumers might have a need for alternative applications that phones could not yet provide. As BlackBerry’s market share has continued to fall dramatically there has been a lot of talk about its sale. But before decisions are finalized, both consumers and experts alike are asking the question: is there a compelling reason for a business to use BlackBerry? Would businesses be better off centralizing on a different product and operating system, such as a Windows Phone, or Apple’s iPhone and iOS operating system? Or is bring your own device (BYOD) the way to go?

Centralizing on another product, such as the Windows Phone or the iPhone, allows for companies to set clear expectations of what is acceptable to be done with the device. By centralizing to one device, employees will all be on the same operating system, and in addition, there is less room for security risks. The general consensus is that companies should look into which device is best suited for the business, taking into account privacy, security and specific software applications.

Of course, BYOD would allow employees to choose their own device, which would be ideal for individuals with a preferred product. Letting employees use the devices they are most comfortable with can greatly boost productivity and worker morale. “Mac people” feel most comfortable operating with an iPhone rather than a BlackBerry or another device and visa versa.

However, BYOD has its own share of problems when it comes to business related communications. One of the most critical aspects to a BYOD program is the security of the data on these personal devices. Many have expressed concerns about accessing sensitive corporate information available on personal devices. There is also the risk of malware infected devices connecting to the corporate network. Allowing employees to use their own devices can also be a distraction, as some may be inclined to use devices for non-work activities during work hours.

While BlackBerry has hit hard times, the once top tiered mobile innovators are not done yet. Early last month, BlackBerry announced that they would launch a cross-platform, BBM Channels. The cloud-based enterprise mobility management solution is designed with the tools to secure and manage personal and corporate devices. This new EMM solution will offer business mobile device and application management, as well as security standards and self-service capabilities for end users. The success of this new EMM could help alleviate some of the concerns with BYOD policies, as well as help BlackBerry get back on the path to success.

After the recent launch of the BBM Channels “Messenger App,” BlackBerry has seen more than 10 million users download the free App for both Google Android and Apple iOS. In a recent statement, Andrew Bocking, Executive Vice President of BBM at BlackBerry confirmed, "The mobile messaging market is full of opportunity for BBM. We intend to be the leading private social network for everyone who needs the immediate communication and collaboration of instant messaging combined with the privacy, control and reliability delivered through BBM." But can the success of the App guarantee a future for BlackBerry?

Although BBM Channels is now in beta testing, it’s unclear when the service will be more widely available, and, whether or not the profits will be significant. Of that, Bocking told The Morning Edition, "We continue to plan to evolve the service and keep making it more engaging and have more reasons why people will come back to use the service."  More than just a mobile chat messaging company, it’s possible that BlackBerry will seek long-term profits secure corporate and government communications, even exploring the acquisition of its own.