Struggling phone maker BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) offered some positive news this week with the announcement that 12 small Android phone makers have agreed to pre-install its BBM messaging application on their Android phones. Further, the company launched its BBM Channels service, a Twitter-style social engagement platform within BlackBerry's Messenger service that allows customers to connect with businesses, brands, celebrities and groups.
BlackBerry said Android phone makers Be, Brightstar, Celkon, EVERCOSS, IMO, Micromax, Mito, Snexian, Spice, TECNO, TiPhone and Zen will add its BBM Android application to phones before they are sold to end users. The news is not a total surprise; BlackBerry executives hinted in June that the company was in discussions with other handset makers about pre-installing BBM on their devices.
Although the participating OEMs are relatively small, the action is intended to increase the usage of BBM in emerging markets like Africa and Indonesia where the OEMs sell phones. "BBM is incredibly popular in Indonesia and since its availability on Android, it's become the must have messaging app for our customers. We are therefore thrilled to be working with the BBM team at BlackBerry to preinstall BBM on our devices, making it easier than ever for our customers to get connected to BBM contacts and start chatting," explained Janto Djojo, chief marketing officer of EVERCOSS.
Separately, BlackBerry is rolling out its previously announced BBM Channels service across its BlackBerry phones, according to a number of reports. BBM Channels essentially represents an expansion of the core BBM messaging service into the social networking realm and sets the stage for BlackBerry to make money off the service by charging brands and marketers to access to users. BlackBerry said BBM Channels will be added to its Android and iOS apps in the coming months.
BlackBerry for years used its BBM messaging service, previously only available on its BlackBerry phones, as a way to tie users into the BlackBerry ecosystem. However, BlackBerry earlier this year extended BBM to Android and iOS devices after failing to ignite customer interest in its new BlackBerry 10 devices, including the touchscreen Z10 and Qwerty Q10. And BlackBerry has reported significant interest in BBM since it launched the service on rival platforms: The company said it counted over 20 million new active users in the first week of BBM's availability across Android and iOS.
BlackBerry's BBM momentum stands in stark contrast to the company's ongoing strategic and financial troubles. The company recently posted a $965 million loss in its most recent quarter, which was primarily due to a $934 million charge it took related to unsold inventory of its Z10 smartphone. BlackBerry has also said it will cut 4,500 jobs, around 40 percent of its workforce. During the fall, BlackBerry had lined up a $4.7 billion deal led by Fairfax Financial Holdings, its largest shareholder, to go private, but that transaction fell apart earlier this month. Instead, BlackBerry will receive $1 billion in financing in the form of convertible notes from Fairfax and other investors. As part of that deal, the company replaced CEO Thorsten Heins with former Sybase CEO John Chen.
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