BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) originally said that it would release BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) for Android on Sept. 21., followed by a version for iOS (iPhone) that same day at midnight. What followed was a minor disaster: An earlier, unreleased version of BBM for Android was distributed on file-sharing sites and installed by over 1 million users prior to the launch, overloading BlackBerry’s servers.
The launch was canceled, while BlackBerry focused on blocking access to the beta that had made its way online. In a blog post, Andrew Bocking, BlackBerry executive vice president and head of BBM, explained that the “older version resulted in volumes of data traffic orders of magnitude higher than normal for each active user and impacted the system in abnormal ways.”
While the version of BBM for Android and iPhone that BlackBerry planned to release on Sept. 21 had been adjusted to fix the error with bulk data, Bocking wrote that the “only way to address the issue was to pause the rollout for both Android and iPhone.” While competitors like WhatsApp, Viber, Skype and even Kik are able to offer smartphone users messaging apps that utilize data plans instead of SMS texting that carriers sometimes charge a premium to use, BlackBerry has yet been unable to fix the issue.
For an in-depth comparison of the top five BBM alternatives, click here.
BlackBerry is reportedly working with beta testers on a functional version of BBM for Android, meaning the rescheduled release date could be in the near future. The first video report showcasing a beta version of BBM for Android appeared three weeks before the scheduled launch date. Judging by that timeline, it could be nearly Halloween (or sometime around Oct. 24) before the revised BBM for Android and iPhone release date arrives.
The BBM for Android and iPhone situation could be described as “a comedy of errors,” if BlackBerry releases its Messenger app, as opposed to another tragedy for the failing Waterloo, Ont.-based manufacturer. In one difference between BBM and its competition, BlackBerry routes BBMs through its own servers, which need to be prepared for the onslaught of traffic from Android and iPhone users. The official BBM Twitter account announced on Sept. 30 that the company was “Still 100% committed to bringing #BBM to Android and iPhone,” and as of this writing has over 320,000 followers.
BlackBerry and its BBM app have lost nearly all of their marketshare to competing devices from Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) or the variety of manufacturers that run on Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android operating system. While some analysts have suggested that BBM might cannibalize the sales of devices like the BlackBerry Z30, the removal of BB10 smartphones from T-Mobile stores in the U.S. and Rogers Mobile locations throughout Canada illustrates BlackBerry’s desperation in a market dominated by iPhone and Android, with Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) recently purchasing Nokia in an attempt to clamor for third place.
BlackBerry originally announced that it would release a cross-platform version of BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) for Android and iPhone in May at the company’s annual conference in Orlando, Fla. At the time, BlackBerry refused to give an official release date for the cross-platform BBM client, only that it would be made available sometime before the end of summer in North America (Sept. 15).