BlackBerry opens BBM for Android and iOS

Canadian handsets maker BlackBerry made its BBM instant messenger available as a free download for Apple and Android devices on Thursday. Sunil Lalvani, the company’s India managing director, spoke with Priyanka Sahay on how BBM will be more secure than any other instant messenger tools and how this will help the company on its way forward. Excerpts from the interview:

How do you think this would help your market share in future?
There are multiple strategies. When you look at consumer enterprise, things are moving very fast. What we see is the consumer side and we are very excited about our BBM launch.

In markets like India the youth in the consumer segment is extremely socially connected. When we go back to these user communities and the particularly the youth segment, we find that instant messaging is becoming a very powerful tool. We are rolling out the BBM offering across platform. In the case of Android, it will be version 4 which is ice-cream sandwich and upwards, and for IOS it will be version 6 upwards.

Why are you opening up the BBM, which is such a powerful product?
That’s what the market needs and the dynamics are. Today’s youth wants to be active and socially connected irrespective of platforms. One of the key things with BBM is that it runs on the private network operated by BlackBerry. So BBM has its core strength of privacy, reliability and immediacy of delivery. BBM ensures that you and I can only be connected if we share our pin number. The question of reliability comes with our private network.

The whole immediacy of the engagement of BBM comes with the data point. We have 60 million BBM users worldwide, who cumulatively send or receive 10 billion messages a day. Nearly half of these are read within 20 seconds and that’s a huge number.

Why only Android and iOS why not other operating systems?
We haven’t ruled out anything else. If you look at the consumer side – between Android iOS and BlackBerry, you have a billion plus devices today, which work on these three platforms; so BBM today will cut across and target these user segments. We are evaluating and exploring options to work with more platforms.

With an option to enjoy BBM on a `4,000 phone, why would a consumer want to spend more for a BlackBerry device?
BBM will be available on Android and iOS so it gives the users the power to buy devices based on their need, but not to say that the BBM experience will be similar across the three platforms.

To begin with BBM voice and video will only be available on BlackBerry devices. In the case of Android and iOS, when we launch you will not initially get video and voice chat – that’s part of the roadmap – so there are a clear differentiators for users who want BBM and who want the complete experience.

But having said, going forward we will definitely be supporting voice and video on Andoid and iOS.

How can you convince your consumer that your data is more secure as compared with others?
We have partnered and facilitated carries to provide access on need basis to the government for consumer traffic that goes through BlackBerry devices. Now that is in meeting the lawful access of the country because we totally respect that and that doesn’t mean decryption key; it means the ability to intercept the traffic on the consumer side, now that is something that we are complying to.

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