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February 26, 2014

Can BBM Transfer Money? BlackBerry Considers New Option

Things these days are not so great for BlackBerry. A long chain of bad news has emerged for the company; most recently, a Clean Master survey revealed that just two percent of surveyed Americans call the platform their favorite. But counting BlackBerry out may not be wise just yet, as the company is eyeing a new feature: using BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) as a means to transfer money.

In a recent interview, John Sims, BlackBerry's enterprise unit president, suggested that BlackBerry was starting the process of giving BBM a little extra punch by making it a money transfer mechanism, particularly for emerging markets where the BBM service is comparatively popular, like in Indonesia and in parts of Latin America. To that end, BlackBerry has already been seen testing such a service ­ known in some circles as “BBM Money” – backed up by Bank Permata, a local banking operation.

While BlackBerry as a whole hasn't done so well of late, BBM has been on the rise. Since adding support for the Gingerbread version of Android—a particularly popular strain of Android that's widely used, once again, in developing markets—BBM now counts fully 85 million active users, and daily registration rates are up 40 percent. Indeed, BBM is one of four key businesses that BlackBerry is putting most of its attention into, and the company has expanded the system out to iPhone, Android, and soon, Windows Phone. This, in turn, gives BBM – and by extension BlackBerry – some new options with which to work.

Indeed, BlackBerry has not given up in the face of adversity. John Chen, BlackBerry's CEO, announced plans for a pair of new BlackBerry devices made by Foxconn, as well as plans to not only revamp the BlackBerry enterprise server system but also adjust its pricing, giving the service a better overall value.

This is good news for that slim number of BlackBerry fans in the United States, and particularly so for those larger numbers of BlackBerry fans abroad. BlackBerry's regression in the face of new competition from Apple and Samsung and the like has been a difficult one to swallow for many, but BlackBerry is clearly refocused and eager to make a new name for itself in this hotly contested marketplace.

This is a textbook case of companies doing what should prove to be the right thing: BlackBerry is focusing narrowly but at the same time staying somewhat diversified; it is taking advantage of the needs and desires of its target market to provide a new and useful service that should be well-received in the market. While many other companies have looked to near-field communications (NFC) to produce results on money transfers, BlackBerry looks to be using what it already has on hand, a philosophy with certain bottom-line benefits all its own.

Only time will tell if BBM can be used as an effective money transfer vector, but the early going suggests good news indeed, and it may be the start of a turnaround for BlackBerry as a whole.




Edited by Blaise McNamee




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