It may have been regarded by some as “too little, too late,” but BlackBerry had been pinning a lot of hope on its popular BBM messenging service going cross-platform. One expert, however, says the recent resignation of BlackBerry Executive Vice President Andrew Bocking is as “good as a death sentence” for BBM and will hasten BlackBerry’s decline.
Dr. Richard Windsor, who runs the telecom blog Radio Free Mobile, is a former analyst who covered telecom for Nomura Securities. Windsor says Bocking, who was responsible for BBM, appears to have left of his own accord, rather than fired.
Windsor says the BBM boss’s willful departure is “worrying for both what the inner circle think of the prospects of a recovery and for the future of BBM itself.” He believes investors have been riding a wave of optimism around the possibility that new CEO John Chen could spur a recovery, but that that now appears extremely unlikely.
“It is time to head for the exit,” says Windsor, who somewhat startlingly expects that BlackBerry device shipments will hit zero as soon as next year. Windsor says the BBM news is particularly bad because he regards it as more than a core offering for the devices.
“BBM is the only reason for anyone to buy a Blackberry device and now that all the people who use it will not be catered for, the decline will be short and sharp,” he says.
Windsor says he now values BBM and, in fact, BlackBerry’s entire handset business at less than zero. His breakup value assessment of the company includes patents, cash and the company’s services business. The former analyst says he pins the value of BlackBerry $4.37 per share, less than half of its current price.
BlackBerry management, meanwhile, told CNET’s Roger Cheng that the company’s current head of global enterprise solutions John Sims will oversee BBM group, “which will remain intact as a unit.”
BBM launched as a free app on Android and iOS last October and immediately saw 10-million downloads. But the messaging space has grown increasingly competitive. BBM competitor WhatsApp says it has more than 350 million active users each month.
In late November of last year, OnDevice Reseach surveyed 3,759 smartphone owners in 5 countries and asked them which social messaging app they use at least once a week. BBM came in at 17%, trailing Twitter (19%), WeChat (28%), Facebook Messenger (35%) and WhatsApp (44%).