A Day Late And A Dollar Short

So RIM has decided that it is time to make Blackberry Messenger (BBM) cross platform. They announced yesterday that by this summer BBM will be available on iOS and Android.

The time to do this was in 2008/2009 when BBM was huge and everyone was on it. The core users were beginning to leave for iOS and eventually Android and if RIM would have let them take BBM with them, they would now own the biggest cross platform messenger out there. BBM is great and everyone knew how to use it and was comfortable with it.

But RIM execs waited four years to make this move. When BBM hits iOS and Android this summer, they will face dozens of cross platform apps that people use to message each other, one of which is in the USV portfolio. My bet is this won't help RIM or BBM much at this point.

This is a classic case of the innovator's dillemma. RIM felt that letting BBM out in the open would make it easier for Blackberry users to leave. So they kept it proprietary. For way too long. Now they no longer have a dominant smartphone franchise or a dominant mobile messenger franchise.

You cannot fight innovation and opening markets. You have to go with the flow and adapt to the new reality.


Comments (Archived):

  1. JLM

    .This is such a pivotal and fundamental decision one has to wonder what role each of management and the Board played in this decision.Reality is a merciless bitch.JLM.

    1. fredwilson

      it sure it. the instinct to circle up the wagons is powerful, but i think offense is ultimately the best defense

      1. JLM

        .Not to be too simple minded but in most instances defense is imposed upon an entity. Rarely would any entity choose defense as its first course of action.Rarely is defense a decisive engagement because the other party can always choose to withdraw and regroup and reconsider its offense. In this manner, the initiative is always with the offense.Defense consumes the other party’s energy and exerts almost no creative energy in its own effort. It can buy time and space to go back over to the offense.I am sure that is what is going on in the minds of RIM — but who really knows? They are late, very late.There are no parades for skillful defenders and there is rarely a business triumph which has at its core a defensive action.JLM.

        1. pointsnfigures

          Depends on how high the barriers to entry are, and what the government regulation looks like-but I agree, I’d much rather go on offense than be on defense.then I came across this: theatlantic.com/health/arch…Could be that RIM never totaled up the costs, or thought about the costs correctly once innovation hit them.

        2. William Mougayar

          In marketing, defense is regularly practiced by the leaders, i.e. those occupying the #1 position in market share, the ones on top of the hill.Defense is cheaper than offense (in marketing). Only a few players can afford to play offense against the incumbent. Typically, startups enter by flanking, not head-on attack.That said, BlackBerry should have attacked itself instead of waiting. It’s better to shoot yourself in the foot than to have someone else shoot you in the head.In this case, by delaying the opening of BBM, BlackBerry allowed other messaging apps to flourish & gain market share with adjacent products. So, it had a reverse effect on their defense. While they were defending the front part, competitors attacked them broadside & the breach is wide enough that they are now fighting neck to neck.

          1. awaldstein

            I so enjoy disagreeing with you an this one my friend.Defense is always the most expensive strategy because it is by definition reactionary.Expense is not weighed by dollar or resource costs, it measured by the runway of opportunity it creates in the future.All startups are by definition on the offense as they need to create not protect their market.

          2. William Mougayar

            Hmm… I enjoy that too. Have you read Marketing Warfare?It’s expensive to go head-on with a competitor that is entrenched. Think Pepsi vs. Coke. All successful startups have been successful by using a flanking strategy:- Foursquare: the flank was the checkin to build the database of places & data- Messaging apps: Openness was where the flanking attack happenedMy argument holds water when there’s an incumbent and existing players. If it’s a totally new market with no leader, then it’s a different story. E.g. Instagram: they were first to get pic sharing right.

          3. jason wright

            Hannibal at Caanii – outflank, encircle, and put to the sword.twenty years later they got him though.

          4. awaldstein

            Yup read that but more importantly I’ve been in the wars and led a few charges a bunch of times;)Yes you are right if you are Pepsi vs Coke. Not my world.You’ve changed the conversation a bit here though. Offense and defense are not the same as head on and flank attack.Being offensive on the flank is smart and standard fare for the underdog but offensive it still is.

          5. JLM

            .Not to quibble but what you are describing is a “spoiling attack” in which an enterprise — market leader — attempts to destroy its competition before the competition can marshal meaningful traction.Apple initially did that successfully to Samsung, in part with litigation.Samsung began to get traction when they harnessed the power of humor.BTW, this is exactly the way the US should be fighting its wars. Stop trying to conquer and change opponents or to control ground — just knock the crap out of them so they take 5 years to get back on their feet and then come calling again in month 45. Much cheaper.JLM.

          6. Timothy Meade

            Unless they have a seemingly inexhaustible supply of recruits only a portion of which have already become belligerents. The danger is that you turn larger and larger percentages against you, and given the demographic profiles, that would seem to be more dangerous than an L&O approach in the short term.

          7. JLM

            .Believe me this is not the way I would like it all to work but there is no more compelling argument than reality.What we are doing currently is not working.The threat nevertheless is real and has to be blunted.If we can knock the crap out of our enemies in such a manner that they cannot project force for some useful period of time, then we get the benefit of peace without the cost of war.We just have to be sensitive to the “period” and repeat as needed. Scheduled ass kickings.America is not going to support long wars and we simply cannot afford them in the current economic straits — proving that a weak economy is, indeed, a national security consideration.JLM.

          8. Timothy Meade

            Maybe they could have recognized that BBM and Blackberry had two different markets. It seems they calculated that BBM wouldn’t bring new users to Blackberry and was therefor not worth doing. BBM would have been a diversification play, one that RIMM desperately needed. (And it may seem I argue the opposite above, but that was gambling with the core brand product)

    2. William Mougayar

      I’m sure you know this. Despite very recent openings for Android & some testings for iPhones, the BlackBerry is still the platform of choice for the US government (and others in the world), especially DoD. That’s for obvious security reasons.

      1. pointsnfigures

        the DoD and government might be a big enough market right there. Reason to exist.

        1. William Mougayar

          …or reason to desist 🙂

  2. SD

    you may be right that this was purely innovators dilemma, but these things are rarely so cut and dried. It’s quite possible they believed opening up bbm could put carrier subsidy deals at risk-if you are rim CEO, and your head of sales says your Verizon order will go down by 25% if you open up BBM, then as a public co CEO you are likely to be skeptical that risk is worth it. Especially given that opening up BBM has strategic benefits, but no near term revenue benefitsEntirely feasible the carriers would take this position on bb subsidy as BBM could be perceived as siphoning revenue from SMS.

    1. SD

      I would simplify the comment to the ceo had to decide between certain sales today vs. possible relevance tomorrow.

      1. Ana Milicevic

        Pretty much the crux of the innovator’s dilemma. For public cos w/ quarterly goals it’s often hard to think beyond the next quarter and justify the value of being relevant tomorrow.

        1. SD

          I dont think this is just a public co issue – ANY company with investors will have some explaining to do if their revenues today go down because of a strategic decision. ESPECIALLY in private markets, where momentum plays such a bigger role in the perceived (an therefore real) success.

        2. ShanaC

          ah, trading, how we no longer really reward building long term value – (the point of owning stocks)

    2. fredwilson

      great point. “things are rarely so cut and dried”

      1. LE

        This is all covered in the seminal “Journal of Hindsight” research study.On a more serious note though you have to see the difference between a risk to an investor (such as yourself or a stock investor) and the risk to an individual making a decision, say the CEO or even the owner of a small business. Or a business school professor or a journalist writing about what someone did or should have done. “Peanut Gallery”. Things are different in the engine room of the ship.An investor is diversified with many investments so one bad decision can’t bring them down. They can afford to take more and different risks. When either your job is on the line or your company is on the line it’s simply not the same thought process. Now take even that back a step to people who pontificate and have no risk at all when they say something or offer opinions.This is not to say that people don’t make the wrong decisions given the set of circumstances of course. Because they do but it’s important to understand the underpinnings in addition what isn’t cut and dried and that you don’t have all the facts to to begin with.

    3. Joe Wilkinson

      Perhaps not your main point, but I think spot on about the issues with being a “public co CEO”. So often the fear of the public market reactions force companies into the innovators dilemma.

    4. William Mougayar

      This is a highly speculative and hypothetical scenario that isn’t even close to real. Why would Verizon or any carrier orders go down if BBM opened up? The carriers have been laughing to the bank due to increases in iPhones and Androids activations in the past 3-4 years and their growth has been with those devices and they overshadow BlackBerry’s declines.BlackBerry’s demise had more to do with the company itself and their devices (pun) than with BBM being open or not. Those that left it (me included in 2008) did so because the other devices were better. I didn’t care less about BBM.

      1. SD

        I would (respectfully, but vehemently) disagree with your first point, while agreeing that many of RIM’s afflictions are product (as opposed to strategy)Think back to 2008 – the world was MUCH more carrier centric, and RIM was the beneficiary of that world’s ecosystem.The iphone was 1 year old, and still ATT exclusive, and the Android G1 had just launched (on T-Mobile). Wireless carriers were even resistant to allowing wifi devices (much less allowing messaging apps on the phones)…and SMS (and the SMS gateways) were viewed as a high-margin, growth business for the carriers; as silly as it sounds today, carriers were terrified that consumers could put skype on their phones and drop their voice plans.And dont forget, there was a clearer split between enterprise and consumer markets back then. So if you are a Verizon enterprise salesperson, you are trying to sell a ton of blackberry devices to companies.The broader point is that with the benefit of perfect hindsight, Some of these strategic issues seem really obvious – I think those mistakes are forgivable because they are not mistakes except in hindsight.But I think you astutely point out the mistakes that are unforgivable as a management team – RIM’s unflagging arrogance that they didnt have to innovate on product because their distribution would carry the day (hmmm…..sounds like a familiar story in other industries).

        1. William Mougayar

          I agree with you for 2008 & 2009, but in 2010 things started to change. They could have held back the openness til 2010, maybe 2011 max.

        2. ShanaC

          at that time it was rim or iphone – android hadn’t really happened.It shouldn’t feel like so long ago though..boy

        3. JamesHRH

          Your points are valid.The decision too stay closed in 2008/2009 is still wrong.

      2. Timothy Meade

        @wmoug:disqus By the way, I’m currently finding myself with a lot more free time and planning to take a couple day trips. Any suggestions for where to go and what to see in Canada? Toronto is not too far from where I am (Northeastern Ohio).

        1. mike

          CN Tower, Niagara Falls, Blue Jay Game, walk around harbour front. Not sure what you are into but that’s a good start.

        2. William Mougayar

          Cool. Welcome to Canada. It’s a big country! Toronto has the most to offer from a variety point of view, but I would choose Montreal if it’s just for a visit. Niagara Falls of course! Let me know if you make it.

        3. JamesHRH

          Tim, will is from France, so discount the whole Montreal thing ;-).Toronto has a ton to offer, big city wise.If you like the outdoors, keep going north to Georgian Bay or Muskoka country (bring your wallet if you head to Muskoka though).I just moved to SW Ont this winter – have to tell that the shore of Lake Huron (google up, say, Ipperwash Beach) is pretty amazing as well.

    5. takingpitches

      Yep — we might be saying the same about Apple in a few years as they have a hard time moving down the price curve with their phones and tablets. Easier to disrupt new markets than your own market, when those own markets are very profitable.

      1. andyidsinga

        exactly! this happens over and over again as the most successful companies fail ..in hindsight everyone talks about how arrogant etc management was, but when they were in the upswing they were gods. Christensen even talks a little about that phenomenon in the book. with apple, it will be especially interesting because people have been suggesting that apple is “disrupting itself” with ipads vs macs. but ipads, imho, are not mac disruptions as much as they are sustaining innovatons to iphones

        1. kidmercury

          “ipads, imho, are not mac disruptions as much as they are sustaining innovatons to iphones”#insightful #droppinknowledge

        2. Saad Fazil

          I think of iPhone as disrupting incumbents more so than Apple itself; so while the products are indeed disruptive (and NOT sustaining), Apple still gains more as it ends up disrupting Windows more so than it disrupts Macs. ThisSecond, margins on iPads are higher than those on Macs, and by by that reason alone, iPads are not ***really*** disruptive (or cannibalize Apple).

      2. Timothy Meade

        Maybe it’s time for Apple to open smaller stores that focus on iPhone, in places where they aren’t already positioned. They could sway people towards carrier partners that they can more easily control (Sprint for instance).

    6. Michael Wolfe

      Agree, this is precisely what puts the “dilemma” into “innovator’s dilemma”

  3. ORE Agency

    RIM is now called BlackBerry.

    1. fredwilson

      i like calling them RIM

      1. ORE Agency

        Just stating a fact – not a negative comment on the article.

        1. fredwilson

          no harm, no foul. fun back and forth.

      2. William Mougayar

        One could say: BlackBerry (nÊe RIM) 🙂

        1. NicolasVDB

          On the tombstone you mean?

          1. William Mougayar


      3. pointsnfigures

        must have something to do with the Knicks and their shots hitting the rim

      4. Elie Seidman

        I remember well my Blackberry that had the RIM logo on it. And following their stock – RIMM

  4. andyswan

    Everyone loves to make fun at RIM for failing to innovate and respond. But what they’re forgetting is that during the period of disruption, RIM was fighting for its life against the ultimate patent troll. I can’t imagine how much resources, momentum and passion left the building during that process.They’re the ultimate victim of patent trolls, and they’re surviving. I like that.All that said, they’re idiots and should have bought KIK instead of suing everyone themselves lol

    1. PhilipSugar

      So true. Dealing with lawyers, consultants, and accountants is what I call an asymmetric battle. It kills entrepreneurs. We don’t get paid by the hour. We get paid to get stuff done. They get paid by the hour. Every hour they suck is billable. Every hour you spend is a lost hour of your life.

      1. roth

        The great thing about lawyers is we can complain regardless of their fee structure! Hourly fee? All they do is work to create billables! Set fee? Can you believe how much they charge! Contingent fee? Can you believe how much they take! The dirty secret is that “entrepreneurial” lawyers, i.e., those associated with smaller firms or on their own, spend an inordinate amount of time trying to collect and/or renegotiate fees from clients because some people cling to the notion that any bill is some nefarious plot to screw the client. Solid lawyers understand the value of good clients and solid clients understand the value of good lawyers. Comments like these are major red flags.

        1. PhilipSugar

          No. I always try to get a fixed fee versus an hourly. If you bill hourly you are commoditizing your service. We charged fixed fee for consulting but add an hourly component if we have to deal with somebody that gets paid by the hour. I have been one of the huge proponents of standardized docs.

  5. jason wright

    no mention of Windows Phone in the announcement. an odd omission.

  6. Elie Seidman

    A counter argument is that BBM was their network effect and was creating BB hardware/OS lockin. BB was starting to be in bad shape by then but BBM was reducing the flow of users out. I had a blackberry and consciously thought about the fact that I’d lose BBM with my friends if I left the BB platform. The needed solution was a much better product. I don’t think opening up BBM would have done much to change their destiny. Arguably, it would have hastened the departure of loyalists.

    1. Ana Milicevic

      Agree – BBM was fantastic at the time, especially if you had contacts in different countries (where SMS was cost-prohibitive and MMS clunky and often with hilarious results over different carriers). Then WhatsApp came along and solved that problem cross-platform.However, opening up earlier could have impacted RIM positively. Offering BBM to other platforms for a fee (passed on to the user) could have been a valuable business model on its own (hard to argue against that w/ WhatsApp being valued around $1BB today). Carriers could craft a special ‘add on’ fee to augment any potential losses on the SMS side (they don’t really have that option anymore) and BBerry could have been less of a dying animal in 2013.Of course, as the Serbian saying goes, all generals are smart after the battle is done.

      1. Elie Seidman

        Good point and great saying. Only caveat I’d have is that at the time, RIMM was worth about 70billion or 80billion. So even if the instant messaging opportunity was a $2B or $3B opportunity, they were playing defense – poorly clearly – on a business where $2B or $3B of opportunity was almost a rounding error.

    2. kidmercury

      yes i largely agree with your analysis here. in my opinion a “better product” would have been one that better served the mobile computing needs of enterprises. i think they lacked a vision for this, as well as getting mired down in other operational struggles (i.e. battling patent trolls). i think it is quite possible that opening up would have hastened their demise.

    3. fredwilson

      but what if a mobile messenger is the most strategic asset in all of mobile? i am not saying it is, but it could well be the new mobile OS.

      1. Timothy Meade

        @fredwilson:disqus Are mobile OS’s strategic because they bring follow on app purchases?

        1. fredwilson


      2. Elie Seidman

        Long delayed response as disqus email notifications got to me on a long delay. Not sure if it was disqus or my email.Interesting question. Have not thought about beyond this thread but very interesting and need to think about it more. Will sleep on it.

  7. pointsnfigures

    Once the slide starts, the only way to fight innovation and markets is through chasing rents with government regulations. (assuming the company cannot innovate itself)There are instances where the investment in innovation might be too high, and it’s just easier to let the cash cow descend into an evening star and die. There is always a choice to go out of business in the long run.RIM had one disadvantage regarding the iPhone. Apple is similar to a cult. Apple did a great job marketing and you were cool if you had one, and corporate if you had a Blackberry.

  8. kskobac

    I still feel Blackberry could have killed it with the ultimate keyboard-based Android phone. No one was doing that well. an enterprise Android phone with Blackberry’s keyboard, mail service and BBM would have been a strong offering (a few years ago).

    1. fredwilson

      i agree

    2. mike

      BB10 is amazing and worth the wait. The new Z10 is amazing! Fast, easy and very very efficient multi-tasking machine.

    1. fredwilson


      1. reece

        thought you’d appreciate that one

  9. Carl Rahn Griffith

    The jumping on of a bandwagon is rarely a great move when said bandwagon is already overflowing…

    1. Matt A. Myers

      BBM already has a strong brand, so I think they simply need to in order to not continue hemorrhaging – and be able to continue to compete with the other advantages they may have to offer.

      1. Carl Rahn Griffith

        True. Very popular with kids over here in UK – and very good deals from telco providers – get ’em young – if they can build on that brand loyalty, they could have a renaissance, for sure.My iPhone 4 feels strangely old-tech nowadays, I must say. Not that it bothers me; am heartily sick of the new-product-cycle-hamster-wheel-consumernomics.

        1. Matt A. Myers

          Yeah, and there’s enough value from the other platforms / providers now that the quality that Apple provides doesn’t counteract the cost associated with a closed ecosystem.

  10. Barry Nolan

    By this analysis (which I agree with) Apple are the most open out there. They are happy for their customers to replace any of Apple’s mail, messaging, maps, music, calendar, browser, photos, camera, podcast apps.

    1. georgebc

      I don’t use Apple products, so I may be wrong about this, but I was under the impression that Safari is still the only browser allowed as default on iOS devices. Also, other browsers are forced to use Webkit. Hardly the most open methinks…

      1. Barry Nolan

        That’s certainly true as the underlying engine.

    2. kidmercury

      apple rejects a lot of competing stuff. most recently they’ve begun rejecting apps that compete with the app store: http://appleinsider.com/art

      1. Barry Nolan

        In instances yes. For 850,000 other apps, no. And there are advantages to the approval system. From Apple Insider today:Mobile malware exploding, but only for Androidhttp://appleinsider.com/art…

        1. kidmercury

          i know apple will always have the “its for your own protection” excuse to censor competing apps, in much the same way twitter censors competing apps. if you encroach on valuable territory on someone else’s platform, though, you could get “taken care of.”

          1. LE

            Apple is serving more than one master here but that’s still ok. Who cares if it also benefits them?The are absolutely correct on the security aspect. I like the fact that apps have been vetted before going into the app store. As I’ve pointed out I don’t root devices at all and advise against it for most users. Kinda in the same way a Dr. advises someone not to take drugs unless medically necessary.The fact that my dad didn’t want to spend the money to buy me a mini bike when I was a kid and the fact that he said the reason was that it was dangerous is a good example. He was right. It was dangerous and I could have gotten hurt and I’d be paying for that now.

          2. kidmercury

            you trust apple to be your gatekeeper. i find this to be humorous, a bit similar to how i view people who think 9/11 was pulled off by some dudes in a cave who got past the world’s most powerful air defense to fly two planes into two buildings to cause THREE buildings to fall at near free-fall speed. but that is of course your choice. i trust google and amazon (increasingly amazon as their offering develops) to be my primary computing provider.

          3. LE

            Oh geez.

  11. jmcaddell

    I got a chance to read Rita McGrath’s new book “The End of Competitive Advantage” and she argues, pretty convincingly, that sustained competitive advantage isn’t possible anymore – and that successful large enterprises will manage shorter waves of competitive advantage – knowing when to invest, harvest and exit. BBM is a great example of a tool that needed this new way of managing to stay relevant. And, sadly, it didn’t get it.

    1. fredwilson

      i want to read that book. i love that way of thinking

    2. LE

      “that sustained competitive advantage isn’t possible anymore”What types of businesses does she cover in that book? How would you summarize what she says as far as why it’s not possible?

      1. pointsnfigures

        I might disagree a little with that. If you use markets and have network effects from everyone being on one system; it’s possible to have continuous sustained advantage. But, if the innovation can be quickly commoditized, there has to be a value add outside of the innovation itself.

      2. jmcaddell

        An example comparison is Fuji vs Kodak in the film business. When digital started coming on in the 80s, Kodak tried a bunch of initiatives around digital, but still focused strategic attention on the film business, while Fuji went aggressively into digital photography but also moved into areas that its film competencies supported, with the result that they were able to more gracefully ride down the decline curve with film, compared to Kodak (we know what has happened there).Why sustained competitive advantage is no longer possible? Many factors – Christensen-style disruption from below, technology, diversity of global competition. It’s all stuff that had me nodding my head. Worth a read even if you don’t necessarily agree with its premise.

  12. kidmercury

    i disagree to some extent in that i don’t think their flaw was to not go cross-platform; rather i think the problem was that they did not see their opportunity to become the provider of mobile computing systems for enterprises. i think this opportunity is still available to them, though i would expect windows or an android fork to take it.cross-platform is good for two types of companies/scenarios:1. companies that are truly big data companies — i consider only google and amazon to be in this category2. companies that have their own platform and are using cross-platform strategies to recruit people back to their own platformgenerally speaking, investing heavily in cross-platform only sets the stage for the company whose platform you are building on to pull the rug out from underneath you and cut you off. we see this all the time on the web, twitter being the clearest example. even google is increasingly putting its apps front and center on its platform. having a platform and knowing the precise customer base you are building it for, and then designing everything else around this vision, is the strategy i think is far more viable.

    1. andyidsinga

      twitter and fb are mos. def. big data companies too

      1. kidmercury

        yes, i agree they are trying to be, as many others are. though i think if these companies fail to differentiate themselves well enough relative to google/amazon regarding the type of information they obtain and how they structure it, they will lose to a bigger and more developed network.

      2. ShanaC

        and probably have more growth to grow into in terms of data

    2. Brandon Burns

      I don’t think your point negates Fred’s, but instead shows an additional big opportunity that was made available to RIM that they didn’t jump on… and magnifies just how off base they were / are as a company.

  13. Abdallah Al-Hakim

    The one advantage that Blackberry still has is the physical keyboard. Unfortunately this satisfies a niche group of people but it is a hardcore group. I already use Kik and Whatsapp and they more than satisfy my needs. Still, as a Canadian 🙂 I will continue to cheer for Blackberry and the news from their latest phone are generally positive but is probably too late.

    1. William Mougayar

      You don’t need to be apologetic about them. As a Canadian, we want BlackBerry to succeed. It’s good for everybody.

  14. William Mougayar

    I’m going to defend BlackBerry today.Yes, they were late and I’m not going to speculate about the reasons behind that. But, despite their lateness, BBM has more than 60 million monthly active users, with more than 51 million using BBM for an average of 90 minutes per day. Its customers collectively send and receive more than 10bn messages daily, with almost half read within 20 second of being received.I challenge the other “over the top” messaging apps to produce similar stats, especially on engagement, usage & reliability.And when it comes to unique BBM features like screen shares for e.g., most other Apps are the ones that come short, by more than a dollar and more than a day, after a few years of trying to emulate BBM.

    1. markslater

      we are in the messaging space.I can promise u that the numbers with the likes of whatsapp, groupme (and i would say KIK but i have no idea) are absolutely enormous. Add in FB messenger, and those 60 M monthly actives are a slither in a pie chart.

      1. William Mougayar

        I don’t have the exact numbers but this is my guess on rank for global messaging apps:1. WeChat2. Whatsapp3. Viber4. BBM5. KikBut the engagement numbers would be interesting to compare (90 mins/day for 80% of users & 10 billion messages/day for BBM). If the other companies released them, I have a feeling that BBM’s position might be #2.(Groupme btw doesn’t have a lot of users. I think they hover at around 5-6 million)

        1. fredwilson

          all of these apps have crazy engagement. don’t forget snapchat. that’s effectively a messenger too.

          1. William Mougayar

            Yup, I forgot about Snapchat. I read they were doing 150 mil photos / day, a couple of months ago.Where does one get the stats on the top mobile Apps MAUs & engagement, like the old Metrix reports? This is the closest I was able to find:http://beta.fool.com/leokor…There’s also Nimbuzz and Kakao.

        2. markslater

          i am gonna guess – and it is a guess – that the kids using whatsapp will dominate those engagement numbers. I see my au pair (22) – its insane this generations usage…

        3. leeschneider

          Does iMessage rank anywhere? And one thing I’ve grappled with, as an early Kik user, is why would someone use one of these vs. the built in iMessage? I have had a terrible time getting people to try, and commit to, Kik.

          1. kidmercury

            imessage has the right idea but it’s not apple’s forte to do social stuff; they are primarily a manufacturer of pretty boxes, not social networks. these companies will be blown off the face of the earth once google gets around to iterating google+/ hangouts/gtalk for mobile to get it right, or when amazon acquires the right one and builds it into its network.

          2. fredwilson

            I don’t think so. Its not a winner take all market. There are no network effects since people seem happy to have many messengers on their device and use whatever one brings them a mesaage

          3. kidmercury

            in general i think requiring the download of an app is an enormous barrier to entry that the OS bosses do not face, and that there is an upper threshold as to the number of apps people want on their phone. soon it will just be too easy to do it all through gtalk/google hangouts, especially when everyone has a gmail address and android phone with the app pre-installed anyway and seamlessly integrated with the rest of the OS. i think messaging apps that are integrated into pre-existing niche communities have the best chance, though most seem focused on scale rather than niche.

          4. fredwilson

            yeah, but if your friend uses whatsapp, you are going to put it on your phone to talk to them

      2. William Mougayar

        btw- i downloaded Pingup and was pleased to see a bunch of local businesses pop-up. Why don’t you add Canada on your website. It looks like it’s just US now. You also have results for Vancouver & Montreal.

        1. markslater

          we are still fighting the boston market right now william – but we are seeing signs of breakout so i’d hope this year we’ll start to get ubiquitous – that map is old….we are coming north! best Mark

          1. markslater

            oh and platform beats the point solution! remember those words!!

      3. fredwilson


      4. boneflute

        anybody has came across a figure for the delivery speed for whatsapp messages? or any other platform?sometimes I suspect it takes 20s-30s or maybe even 1m judging by the replies I get when chatting

    2. Cam MacRae

      Whatsapp alone is in the vicinity of 200M active users. Still, 60M is a decent launchpad — I’m a BBM fan.

    3. fredwilson

      as Cam said, Whatsapp has 4x the scale of BBM now. Kik is closing in quickly on them now. I have to imagine Facebook Messenger is close to WhatsApp in size too.

      1. William Mougayar

        True, there is growth momentum for other apps. 200K downloads per day for Kik isn’t too bad.

      2. Jevon

        Amazing really,. RIM gave all that up, in slow motion.

  15. Jevon

    This is less about BBM itself and more about the culture that has developed within RIM/BB. This is a company that, while on top, sued startups and actively tried to dissuade the amateur application development ecosystem, focusing instead on a highly “corporate” approach to getting apps built for their platform.The new CEO should think about Marissa’ing the place. Turn it on its head: Start cutting a few throats and bringing in some entrepreneurs (if they can convince them …) who can find real opportunities for growth. I think they need to move away from a perfection culture and towards a product culture which can produce enough “stuff” for consumers to stay engaged…

    1. William Mougayar

      I agree Jevon. I was in Waterloo 4 times in the past month and I can sense the winds of change at BlackBerry, but not totally and not enough of it. They have regained some respect, but haven’t totally turned all corners.

    2. fredwilson

      bingo. having had a front row seat to that behavior, i can attest to the arrogance and hubris that it stemmed from

      1. JamesHRH

        Know some people who took meetings w the co-CEOs. Dysfunctional was the word they used.The RIM opportunity outgrew the team – the BoD did nothing because they were a whale in a puddle.

    3. Elia Freedman

      I work with RIM for a while and I can honestly tell you that they were one of the worst partners I experienced in my 16 years in mobile computing.

      1. Matt A. Myers

        That certainly wasn’t my appearance of them as a consumer, though I guess their ego got to the best of them …

    4. ShanaC

      FYI – this is the reason I don’t think of facebook as a platform – they haven’t developed space for developers to do more with facebook

      1. awaldstein

        What do you think it is then Shana?

        1. Nancy Coirdero

          Shana, u there ?? Knock, knock

          1. ShanaC

            it’s been a long week for me…hi there!

        2. Matt A. Myers

          I’ll chime in … it’s a tool – easily duplicated. Only difficult parts are the network effects, which can be overcome with the right efforts.

          1. awaldstein

            So so don’t agree.A tool sure…easy, duplicatable—not in this lifetime!Like it. Hate it. Love it. It’s changed the world. And nothing changes the world that can be reproduced easily, if at all.

          2. Matt A. Myers

            It only was the factor that changed the world because it was the first to bring together different tools and display them in a useful manner. They also hit well with the branding / name, etc..As I said though, the tough part is network effects, which is why you won’t ever be able to duplicate the rate of scaling / growth, however I was meaning it was the tools that were easily duplicatable – not the exact path Facebook took.

          3. awaldstein

            Thanks for clarifying.The tech behind any of the successful platforms helps, not defines.The tough part is capturing the human need and spirit. All else is honestly irrelevant.

          4. Matt A. Myers

            Agreed 🙂

        3. ShanaC

          Not sure. I’m taking a wait and see, since in a lot of ways it is a very complicated user generated device.. But I’m still pretty sure it isn’t a platform the way an OS is

    5. Matt A. Myers

      I’m not sure they can to convince the best / game-changing entrepreneurs to join a bigger company, who will essentially be taking on the load of BBM – when with game-changing technologies you don’t need a superpower to use as leverage as generally disruption undercuts / adds more and / or different value and usefulness than what the superpower would already be offering.

  16. Dan Epstein

    Turning it around, Apple’s now in a similar boat with iTunes (and other software), only developing for iOS/OSX. We’ll see if that turns out to be the right move.

  17. markslater

    bang on.But there are a herd of very stubborn BB devotees that still exist out there – we have one in the office here – he literally refuses to accept their drift in to mobile obscurity.It reminds of the days when apple drifted in to the margins of as the PC platform proliferated, but you could still find this cohort of nutty fanatics that refused to accept that the once great apple would rise again………an d oh how it did.

    1. fredwilson

      my friend John, who was the best man in our wedding, showed up to a fundraiser last night with a Galaxy S4. he gave up his Blackberry this week. he was lost on the S4. i tried to give him a few tips. he could not type on it for the life of him!

      1. kidmercury

        galaxy note II. that is the phone i used to convert from the blackberry model. smooth transition because the keyboard is so big you can type almost as fast. i really think samsung should focus on branding that as the “phone for serious workers” rather than just a big fun phone that lebron james endorses.

        1. markslater

          i’ve spent the last month with an S4 – being a 3 year iphone user previous. Have to say – the typing is not comparable to the iphone at all. i also have trouble with the screen being too big.the back button wins all day though – i am back with an iphone 5 and find myself looking for it.

      2. Elie Seidman

        Have to say, those keyboards were darn addictive. Crackberry indeed. I don’t miss my Blackberry but I almost miss the keyboard. Two weeks from now he’ll be fine. Just has to go through the withdrawal.

  18. anon

    RIM’s mistake is exactly what Google ‘gets’. Smart move on their part to put the wonderful google maps and google now apps on iphone when there was an open opportunity.

    1. fredwilson


  19. orisfa

    Amen brotha – BBM wasn’t the only boat they missed either. This company has repeatedly miss-read the market and failed to anticipate changes in demand over the last 3-4 years.

    1. pointsnfigures

      That’s a sign of too much bureaucracy in their organization. JLM had a nice post today at Musingsofthebigredcar.com about company culture. That might have had a lot to do with their flat footedness.

      1. John Best

        Agreed, co-CEOs (Lazaridis and Balsillie) were the obvious examples of that.

        1. pointsnfigures

          Sorry JLM, Disqus won’t let me copy and paste. Mistyped. Tell BRC not to run over me next time he sees me.

          1. JLM

            .BRC can be “had” for a can of 10W30 — very easy.JLM.

  20. John Riccardi

    Amazing how many tech executives don’t realize that a single feature is not sufficient to hold on to your userbase.

  21. Pravin J

    In 2008 / 2009 that feature would have been Innovation. Building this feature today will be a opportunity for existing users to shift away from Blackberry and move to iOS / Android.

  22. Elia Freedman

    It is no longer clear to me what RIM/BlackBerry is as a company. Once upon a time they built systems for people who needed communication all the time. Their devices with their great keyboards were geared toward these professionals. Their apps — email, BBM, and general integration across the platform — was unique in the industry. They picked up the productivity mantle that Palm left behind in 2000 or so.But now? Are they a services business? A device business? A systems business? Aimed at consumers? Aimed at professionals?There is nothing a market hates more than an ambiguous product. These kinds of products are easy to ignore, as is happening with BlackBerry now.

    1. kidmercury

      yes at the core of all their problems is branding/vision

      1. ObjectMethodology.com

        Yep, I agree with you and Elia. As I write this I can’t really be sure what RIM is at this point.

    2. mike

      They are a mobile computing company that has the vision of one small easy to carry device that you connect into a dock or car or ….To make the most secure, advanced and efficient OS to build that future vision on.

  23. PhilipSugar

    I think the lesson learned here is that the phone crossed over from being a corporate device to a personal device.Computers are moving that way as well.However, you can’t take those points an d draw that line to all corporate systems.I think RIM was very happy in thinking that they solved the needs of the CIO. CIO’s don’t want time wasting apps on corporate phones. CIO’s want perfection, CIO’s love RIM.

    1. ShanaC

      as marketers get in on CIO turf, that is going to have to change – marketers care less

      1. PhilipSugar

        Frankly I think what is going to happen is CIO’s will become Marketers.It is much easier to teach a technical person marketing than a marketing person technical.

        1. William Mougayar

          That’s a loaded statement. You can teach anyone anything, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be really good at it. Yes, marketing automation & digital marketing have been surging, but that means the CMO is becoming more digital. The CIO is not becoming a marketer. That would be a disaster in most cases.

          1. PhilipSugar

            I think no more loaded than thinking one should outsource the CIO. I think all of these digital tools need to have disciplined project management, are interconnected via web services, and require technical knowledge to understand what is going on underneath the hood so one can understand the upsides and limitations of the tool. So you need technical knowledge.That being said if the attitude is we are going to tell the customer what they want because we are used to doing that to our users, that is an instant killer.So I would say the two that will survive are very tech savvy marketers and very user focused IT professionals.Those that will die are the the marketer that said “don’t tell me about technology” or the IT person that says “this is they way you will get it and you will like it”

          2. William Mougayar

            I think we agree pretty much, based on this “So I would say the two that will survive are very tech savvy marketers and very user focused IT professionals.”Btw- that has been the case for a while, but I would say it’s even more accentuated now. It’s not a choice anymore. Reality is that roles change, and those who adapt continue to do well.

        2. ShanaC

          Not sold. I had a data scientist approach me about how to rebrand himself. he taught me bits of more advanced programming than I was doing before, and is pushing me to write my own software for certain things.Still, he can’t totally hack marketing himself. He’s also way more technical than me.In general, I think the current set of midmanagement and up marketers probably couldn’t handle the data issue. But I’m not sure the younger generation will have that problem.

      2. William Mougayar

        Half of marketing is now digital in big co’s & it’s almost 100% digital at the beginning for startups.

        1. ShanaC

          yes, and a lot of the systems behind them are not nearly as data secure and platform dependent as the stuff behind the cios desk.

  24. ObjectMethodology.com

    They would have had the biggest cross platform messager but would revenues have been as high? I saw somewhere that Apple’s $0.99 music store has drastically reduced music industry revenues.

    1. kidmercury

      there are only a few options for cross platform messenger apps:1. get acquired by a real platform2. sell low quality ads and run a very low margin business3. charge a very low price for the app and run a low margin business4. raise a whole ton of money and try to build your own platform, using your messenger app as your gatewayi think in the end the true cross platform messenger apps will be commoditized on the low end by something that is non-commercial and open source, and beaten on the high end (i.e. better functionality) by apps that are deeply integrated into an existing OS/platform.

    2. Timothy Meade

      Is it not also possible that CD revenues were going to fall regardless of what deal they made with Apple?

      1. ObjectMethodology.com

        That’s possible. I just saw the results of the research presented by someone.

    3. ShanaC

      it was that cds were overprices – there was a lot more profit per song. More songs are actuall;y being bought and paid for now since Apple moved towards pricing

  25. Siminoff

    I am going to have to disagree on this one. I know a lot of peoplethat held onto BB’s because of BBM. If they had released this rightoff the bat then I think their demise might have been faster.BB was doomed for a few big reasons IMHO. They were in bed too deeply with the carriers, which at the time was good but when Apple blew that model up, BB was in a bad place. But worse then that the company had was just arrogant and it was at every level.To me their demise was summed up in the advertisement they had for their playbook tablet, that did not even support email, “Amateur Hour is Over”.

    1. boneflute

      I agree. Twice :-)They could have saved the marketing money for the stupid campaign (which did more harm than good), and properly position the tablet as a BB handset extension, which was its initial model. Get it 101% right and sell it through IT departments only.But then egos came in play, or maybe the sales guys got greedy and stupid, and so instead of 200k units per quarter at business margins they sold 250k at next to 0% margins. BrilliantThis is all history now, and it looks like they’ve learned the lesson. The company has a different texture, deadlines are met, the quality of the stuff is 100% there. If anything Heins is more detached and a bit more humble, and this helps too.We’ll see how far will “firing on all cylinders” will get them 🙂

  26. Simnett

    One approach to this problem is to think about different parts of a stack. MSFT used to be very good at this- Someone using Outlook was good, using Outlook on the new OS was better, and using it against Exchange was better still (SteveB would say “Good, Better, Best”). Too often I see an “all or nothing” approach- where perhaps people might be better served by making an experience best on their platform, but good on others.Of course, as MSFT proved, you can go too far if you have a dominant market share to abuse, but that’s a different blog thread…

  27. Brandon G. Donnelly

    I was a big fan of BBM and it was definitely one of the things that kept me from switching to iOS sooner. All other messaging apps just seemed so sluggish in comparison. Kik, in my opinion, is the closest thing to BBM. Finally somebody made it so I can just hit enter/return to send a message.

  28. Brandon G. Donnelly

    Assuming RIM never lost its market dominance, would it still have been a good idea to open up BBM? Apple Messages isn’t cross-platform. In 2008/2009, they hadn’t yet accepted that they were going to have their lunch eaten by iOS/Android.

  29. Timothy Meade

    I’ve long been of the opinion that Blackberry gave up when they allowed the carriers to position their phones as feature phones alongside smartphones from first Microsoft then later Apple and Google.RIM started focusing on media features, deemphasized text and QWERTY SureType keyboards and became the phone for tween girls. They followed a false lead at the same time that Apple was aware that the standalone iPod was ultimately doomed. RIM thought they could be an MP3 player, a camera, and a chat service. They ignored that their original forte was business devices. What executive wants to carry around the same device as his teenage daughter?Yes a federated BBM would have helped, and BBM had the chance to become the dominant chat platform in places like the UK, even supplanting SMS. They let Motorola snap up Good, and let Microsoft eat into their BES Juggernaut with the free update to Exchange to support mobile push. They tried to keep the carrier VPN revenue flowing, but carriers wanted an IP-based device where they didn’t have to share their monthly service fee with RIM.Of course, they ended up sharing those fees with Apple instead, even though Apple had little to no service attachment for their devices.The z10 is great start at rebuilding Blackberry. The marketing actually show what the devices are used for, ironically merging the young female demographic and businesswomen demographic. It’s no longer about celebs and concerts or abstract whiteboard sessions (huh??). Of course re-branding as Blackberry and dumping the management team is also a much needed step.

  30. jimmystone

    Sorry to hijack the comment thread but thought you would find Wharton Professor Ethan Mollick’s recent study (http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3… interesting if you haven’t seen yet. In short, he analyzes how good the crowd is at assessing quality of an entrepreneur and he finds that the crowd looks for similar characteristics as VCs. One interesting finding is that the crowd has less gender bias than VCs. Supportive of proponents of crowd funding…

    1. pointsnfigures

      Wisdom in Crowds, there is. Too bad lots of people don’t realize that.

  31. mikenolan99

    I’m interested to see the effect in South America – my daughter is an exchange student in Ecuador, and Blackberry is still the dominant hardware… though “everyone” uses WhatsApp as their messenger of choice. Apple does seem to be gaining traction, though…

  32. someone

    will the same be said someday about MSFT’s delayed rollout of Office on iOS and Android? at least in that case they can generate revenue…BBM, not so clear.

    1. boneflute

      I am still not sure what the revenue source is for WhatsApp or Viber. Same for Skype/Gtalk, it is hard to quantify how much value they bring to MSFT/GOOG.If cash flow becomes an issue for any of the independent cross-platform devices then its business model will change. Same for any “strategic review” inside larger companies which own one or another of the cross-platform messaging platforms. (this is basically what happened now inside BBRY).As about the “too late” angle, I am definitely unconvinced. People always embrace a better thing, it’s not like progress and innovation will stop at 2012 levels.The correct angle is whether the product/service/platform is right for the money/features/productivity. People have no allegiance to brands (contrary to what seems to be the accepted mantra today), otherwise BBRY would have stayed no.1 forever. This goes on.

  33. Sean Hull

    Google seems to manage this brilliantly. Embrace openness & transparency when you are disrupting a market, while adopting competitive monopolistic or platform controlling tendencies when protecting established turf.As innovators, folks who build startups, or engineers that create gleaming new cities, we tend to have a strong bias towards openness & see disruption as a good thing. But there are two sides to the coin.

  34. boneflute

    I am still not sure what the revenue source is for WhatsApp or Viber. Same for Skype/Gtalk, it is hard to precisely quantify how much value they bring to MSFT/GOOG.If cash flow becomes an issue for any of the independent cross-platform devices then its business model will change. Same for any “strategic review” inside larger companies which own one or another of the cross-platform messaging platforms. (this is basically what happened now inside BBRY).As about the “too late” angle, I am definitely unconvinced. People always embrace a better thing, it’s not like progress and innovation will stop at 2012 levels.The correct angle is whether the product/service/platform is right for the money/features/productivity. People have no allegiance to brands (contrary to what seems to be the accepted mantra today), otherwise BBRY would have stayed no.1 forever. This goes on.

  35. boneflute

    Just amazing how all other social networks and media, some with hardly any revenue at all, some without too many of customers of any kind, some with 200M million users who pay 0 fees, all those other platforms are somehow worth mega-billions of dollars.Alas, but Blackberry’s proven social network and media is somehow worthless.

  36. Matt A. Myers

    BBM is trusted, and can be linked into a secure network. They will do at minimum okay.

  37. cellular greed

    calm down people bbry isn’t a day late or a Dollar short…please explain: late for what? to come out with a new OS, or cellular companies releasing the Q10 in June…long bbry..

  38. Saad Fazil

    I agree with the basic premise of the article, Fred. But I wonder whether the phenomenon should really be called “innovator’s dilemma”. Here is why:i) Unlike what some of the comments below suggest, RIM did not not make BBM available cross-platform because it listened to its customers (note that The Innovator’s Dilemma is almost always when a company listens too much to its customers). If anything, in this case, RIM’s customers (end users) were asking for BBM on non-BB platformsii) Making BBM available on non-BB platform doesn’t qualify it as a disruptive innovation. While a non-BB BBM would for sure cannibalize BB devices sales, it’s not because non-BB BBM is disrupting the BB devices.I think it’s simply a business model choice (selling more devices rather than more software). Similar to Apple’s decision to keep iCloud/iMessage Apple-exclusive, or its decision to open up iTunes to non-Apple platforms as well (though it is still not available on Win 8, albeit for a different reason)

  39. ShuChowdhury

    the concept of “soft pins” is very powerful: where every iOS & Android device would receive a soft pin just like each blackberry device and be included in bberry’s proprietary routing tables… if the app performance is as good as BBM on non-RIM devices, this could be a very valuable app (especially for international users)… the decision to open is definitely way late, but is it a dollar short? I sincerely hope not, despite RIM being so far behind it’s ideal innovation curve…



  41. george

    Steve Jobs predicted RIM’s demise, everyone laughed; with respect to visualizing the future, he was so ahead of everyone else.