BlackBerry asserts ‘confidence’ with major BBM upgrade

BlackBerry has made what it has dubbed a “statement of confidence” with a major upgrade to its BBM platform, which sees it extended to Android and iPhone and the launch of a “channels” service for brands.

BBM Channels
BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins and Formula 1 racing driver Lewis Hamilton announce BBM Channels

Speaking at its annual “BlackBerry Live” conference in Florida today (14 May), BlackBerry CEO Thorstein Heins and a number of the company’s executives asserted the success of its new operating system BB10 and hero phones the Z10 and Q10 since their recent launches.

The company shipped almost 1 million Z10 devices in its most recent quarter and its Q10 device, which was released after the report was published, was understood to have “sold out” at stockists in both the UK and Canada.

Heins said the move to launch BBM across multiple platforms for the first time this summer will showcase the service as the “the best messaging and collaboration platform in mobile today”.

He added: “It’s a statement of confidence that the BB10 platform is so strong and the response has been so good that we are confident the time is right for BBM to become an independent multi-platform messaging solution. That’s big news, right?”

BBM Channels

BlackBerry also announced the launch of a new “Channels” feature for BBM, which will extend the service for users to connect with the brands, artists, business and communities they like in real time.

Each channel will work in a similar way to a Twitter page, allowing users to subscribe and opt in to notifications when the owner posts updates. Users can also comment and like posts or have a one on one chat with the channel owner.

Brands will have access to in-built measuring tools to assess and monitor follower engagement and interaction.

A number of BlackBerry related brands – including the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team it sponsors and Alicia Keys, its global creative director – have BBM Channels live from today. Brands can create their own channels now, which will appear on BB10 and older BlackBerry smartphones, with versions on other platforms set for the summer.

Heins said BBM Channels takes engagement with brands “to the next level”, giving companies the potential to connect with its 60 million users on an opt-in basis.

BlackBerry announces new phone and grants

BlackBerry Q5
The new BlackBerry Q5 handset

BlackBerry also took its conference to launch a “youthful and fun” mid-range keyboard smartphone, the Q5, for selected markets, including Europe.

In addition, Alicia Keys took to the stage to announce the BlackBerry Scholars Program scholarship, offering female applicants with an interest in mobile bursaries to take four-year university degrees in the areas of science, technology, engineering and maths. BlackBerry has also committed to offering mentorships for women in technology jobs.

On the theme of bursaries, BlackBerry is also extending its “Keep Moving” marketing programme to offer artists and other influencers grants to work on their “passion products”.

Keys said: “We are evolving the artist brand relationship. Rather than artists executing a vision of the brand, BlackBerry will support the vision of the artist, fostering a culture of creativity…BlackBerry is reinventing itself completely, finding its voice and embracing itself in society and culture.”

“BlackBerry is at a new starting line”

Heins wrapped up the conference with a Formula 1 analogy, having invited Mercedes AMG Petronas driver Lewis Hamilton to the stage to share his stories about the brand.

Heins said: “BlackBerry is at a new starting line, we are on the starting grid and into the race. Here we are at the first post after our last BlackBerry world conference and just 14 months later we have come so far and built a very solid foundation for BlackBerry.

“We have a vision for our future that spans the next 10 to 20 years…we are unified and we are deeply committed to this company, this iconic brand, our carriers, partners, developers, and most of all our customers and shareholders. We are ready for another great year.”

Prior to that, CMO Frank Boulben explained the recent evolution of BlackBerry from a marketing strategy that had “a lot of broken pieces” to a single brand that acts as “the champion of your ambition”.

In its most recent quarter BlackBerry reported a 40 per cent year on year fall in sales to $11.1bn (£7.3bn) in the three months to 2 March. Profit, however, rose to $98m (£82.9m) in the period.

BlackBerry’s share price dropped 3.9 per cent to $15.26 immediately following the conference at the time of writing.

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