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  (Source: Lucasfilm)
Is this the beginning of the end for the smartphone marker formerly known as RIM?

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that even as struggling Canadian phonemaker BlackBerry Ltd. (TSE:BB) creeps ever closer to death, the company is reportedly looking to strengthen and spin off one of its few products that remains popular.

With BlackBerry sales hitting fresh lows and BlackBerry's OS overhaul experiment being greeted by customer apathy, BlackBerry executives are reportedly pondering spinning off BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), -- the company's instant messaging service.  Eight years after the service's 2005 launch, BBM has evolved to sport a visual appealing messaging UI and secure communication based on the service's tried-and-true PIN messaging underpinnings.  BBM has around 60 million customers at last count.

In May BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins -- under pressure to resign -- signaled a change announcing the coming availability of BBM for Google Inc.'s (GOOG) Android and Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL).  The apps have been floating around both in an HTML5 based browser demo and a full-blown beta test form since the June, and rumor has it that Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KSC:005930) will be the first Android phonemaker to bundle the popular messaging client into its devices.

BlackBerry Adieu
BBM may be jumping off the BB wreck. [Image Source:]

In his May announcement, Mr. Heins remarked, "We will make BBM available as the premiere multi-platform IM solution all around the globe.  Why are we doing this now? It’s a statement of confidence.  The BlackBerry 10 platform is so strong and support has been so good that the time is right for BBM to become an independent messaging solution."

In retrospect the latter sentence and emphasis on BBM becoming "independent" may have hinted that rather than a bold -- and much needed -- survivalist transition to a service provider, BlackBerry was instead merely looking to prepare the escape pod for BBM.  The WSJ report claims that BlackBerry has shuffled some executives into the BBM team to enhance its management capabilities, and is adding video chat features to BBM to further enhance its cross platform appeal.

If indeed BB jettisons the successful unit, it will mark yet another fateful loss in the company's quixotic campaign to continue as a smartphone operating system developer, a campaign that pits BB against deep pocket rivals like Apple, Google, and Microsoft Corp. (MSFT).

BB Android
Parts of BlackBerry may live on in Android and other platforms.
[Image Source: Despuesdegoogle]

The company's Board of Directors earlier this month announced it was pursuing "strategic alternatives".  That could involve a sale or a breakup of the company's business units.  Outside of BBM, BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) is another part of BB that still is clinging to a strong chunk of business, even if it's less than beloved at times by enterprise clientele.  Outside of that, BB's primary value appears to be confined to its intellectual property portfolio (which it's already partially sold off) and its manufacturing expertise surrounding its industry-leading physical smartphone keyboards.

If BB does split up its unlikely that BB10's software or devices will survive.  While BB10 is in many ways an impressive mobile operating system, it fails to regain ground against Apple and Google's mature efforts.  It even was recently passed by Microsoft's Windows Phone.  

Customers appear to have more or less decided that BB10 is worthless amidst superior competitive offerings; likewise potential buyers will likely do the same as they look to scavenge the treasures amidst the BB scrap pile. 

Source: WSJ

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By greenchinesepuck on 8/27/2013 8:56:51 PM , Rating: 2
With BBM you know whether your recipient read your message or not, with other messengers like Skype or Google you don't :P

By Guspaz on 8/27/2013 11:15:22 PM , Rating: 3
Other mobile IM solutions, like Apple's iMessage, support read receipts... BBM doesn't really have anything special going for it anymore.

By Samus on 8/28/2013 3:56:00 AM , Rating: 2
I'd argue that BBM is encrypted on "foreign" servers that even Blackberry can't read information from, where as Apple turns over record amounts of information to the NSA.

By othercents on 8/28/2013 8:07:59 AM , Rating: 2
That and Apple iMessage doesn't work on non-iOS devices. BBM is working on most platforms and could easily replace text messaging.

By BillyBatson on 8/28/2013 9:59:10 AM , Rating: 2
You are able to turn this feature off in iMessage and I would say that nearly every single person has turned it off.' I have never known anyone to not turn this feature off right out of the box. BBM never provided a way for you to turn the feature off so it was an even playing field for everyone to stalk on BBM.

By Breakfast Susej on 8/28/2013 9:40:24 AM , Rating: 2
I don't think that's the case any longer at least with google talk (hangouts). I'm pretty certain it shows if your message has been read now as long as you actually go into the app and read it.

If you pull down the tray on the lock screen to read it like I often do, they still can't tell though.

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