BlackBerry’s Hail Mary pass to a receiver that isn’t there or can’t run.

hail_maryLast week I was reminded of the Montreal Alouettes of 1977. Late in the fourth quarter how many times did Marv Levy send in Sonny Wade with instructions to throw a Hail Mary pass to intended receiver Peter Dalla Riva?

The more relevant question is how often did it work and what does this have to do with BlackBerry? The answer; not often and plenty.

However, the biggest difference in the Alouette/BlackBerry analogy is Sonny Wade could at least throw the football in the same direction as Dalla Riva was heading and if a reception was completed, Peter knew what to do with it.

As for BlackBerry’s recent BBM foray into the iOS and Android market, other than a future case study on the role nostalgia can have in Brand marketing, I am not sure the act of likened desperation has any realistic chance of preventing the inevitable. BlackBerry, as we know it today, has about a 6-12 month life expectancy.

Not surprisingly a good number of people made the effort to acquire, myself included, the BBM app for iOS. According to BlackBerry there was “Incredible demand for BlackBerry’s BBM service.” BlackBerry claims 10 Million people signed up for the service in the first 24 hours.

While that number is impressive, the more pertinent statistic is what do recent signups think of the app, do they intend using the service in a meaningful or significant way, and last but certainly not least, does the new BBM service in any way, shape, or form, alter in a favourable way long term perception about BlackBerry?

Again, nostalgic sentiments aside, my assessment is that scientific and practical ratings of the new BBM app are probably low and the likelihood that iOS and Android users intend making BBM messaging an integral App in day-to-day use is highly unlikely. The reasons for this bleak assessment includes but is not limited to the following:

  1. What’s the point? Compared to BlackBerry’s 4.0% share, iOS and Android users combine for 92.3% of the market and these devices already offer similar or superior messaging functionality that reaches across platforms.
  2. Why on earth would an iOS user use BBM’s third party proprietary service to message another iOS user given the native and superior functionality of iMessage?
  3. Claims that BBM messaging across BlackBerry’s network is more secure and cheaper are highly overstated. iMessage is no less secure, iMessages between iOS devices is free, and in any event most data plans offer unlimited texting. More to the point, BlackBerry’s track record for network failure is not inspiring.
  4. BBM messaging is device specific. You can’t have or continue conversations on multiple devices. By contrast with iMessage chats with other iMessage users can be started on an iPhone and continued on an iPad, MacBook, or iMac. This is a highly convenient feature for people who operate on and/or between more than one device.
  5. Too little too late and no discernible revenue-generating business plan. In two previous posts What happened to RIM and Rim still doesn’t get it, I argued how out-of-touch BlackBerry was with market direction and how, even in 2011, it was already too late for a BlackBerry resurrection. Fast forward two years and those arguments are as indisputable today as they were then.
  6. The paralell lesson from Nortel is don’t tie your boat to a sinking ship when the craft you are on is forging ahead swimmingly. Truth is the market is beyond holding out hope that BlackBerry can right its own ship, to say nothing of the lingering customers who are, because of an antiquated way of thinking about IT strategies and for the time being, locked in. These are the same people who, outside of 9-5 and on weekends, cling to their iPods, iPads, and other “iWear” and which serve to identify who they really are outside of the corporate or government bubble.

A final and near intangible factor that goes far beyond what some may characterize as unwarranted corporate bashing of a once held-in-high-regard Canadian flagship and success story, is the notion that iOS and Android users who last week may have downloaded the BBM app for nostalgia sake, are today questioning why they did. Some may even feel they cheated on a technological spouse.

It’s true, some of us still have personal and business acquanatances stuck in the old world. And yes, there are some aspects of communicating with these sorry souls via BBM that makes the exchange seemingly more fluid, direct, and intimate. However, its also true that a certain degree of resentment begins to set in. As in, “why am I lowering myself to their standard instead of insisting they rise to mine?” This level of smugness is quickly followed by “and why should I have to maintain two messaging app icons on my competing for space home-screen when one of the existing icons serves to communicate with everyone? Finally, a good number of former BlackBerry users and investors, are still upset with the Corporate management of the day. Why therefore, should downloads and sporadic use of a too-little too-late gesture serve as a reward or faint hope? It shouldn’t!

This was never more aptly or succinctly put as when, in the heat of last week’s frenzy to download the iOS BBM App, my adolescent son defiantly boasted his BBM pin on Facebook: pin: #iuseimessage.

As many others surely did, I too scoured my current contact list for candidates with whom I could resurrect and/or forge a new BBM messaging connection. I “weekend tested” the service with a few close but non business-sensitive colleagues and friends just to see if/how the app works.

A few resolvable bug-updates aside, the app mostly performs as advertised, but fails to spark any desire on my part to completely revamp or confuse how I communicate with business or personal contacts. More to the point, I have zero intention embarking on an IT fishing expedition I have every confidence will sink out of business in less than 12 months.

Thanks but no thanks.

In short, that is message BlackBerry is going to receive loud and clear in the coming weeks when it closely examines how last week’s downloads do not materialize into new messaging traffic, new revenue, or new BlackBerry sales.

Did BlackBerry polish its armour for would-be acquisition suitors? Possibly. But if anyone believes BlackBerry’s long bomb Hail Mary has even a remote chance of scoring a winning touchdown they are sadly mistaken, disillusioned, or both.

The best BlackBerry can hope for is benevolent interception in a game which, quite frankly, sounded its last whistle long before this latest act of desperation.

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