BlackBerry’s Jim Balsillie Wanted To Turn BBM Into ‘SMS 2.0’

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Jim Balsillie left BlackBerry because they scrapped plans to make BBM a cross-platform alternative to SMS

Former BlackBerry co-CEO Jim Balsillie stood down from the board in 2012, because the struggling manufacturer scrapped his plans to take BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) cross-platform and pitch it to mobile operators as ‘SMS 2.0’, according to a report by Canada’s The Globe and Mail.

“My reason for leaving the RIM board in March, 2012, was due to the company’s decision to cancel the BBM cross-platform strategy,” he confirmed to the Canadian newspaper in a wide-ranging report on the downfall of the firm. At one time BBM was hugely popular, with some market segments using it widely in preference to standard SMS text messaging.

Balsillie was once BlackBerry’s third largest shareholder, but sold his estimated 5.1 percent stake in the company before 31 December 2012. The sale only became public knowledge in February this year, but no reason was given for his actions.

BlackBerry Messenger

BBM for all lead blackberryBalsillie apparently lacked confidence in BlackBerry 10’s ability to revive the company’s fortunes, but believed if operators could be convinced to use BBM as an over-the-top (OTT) service from which they could derive revenue, then BlackBerry would benefit from a vast new source of income.

Operators had been traditionally wary of OTT services as they threatened their revenue streams from text messages, but by offering their customers BBM, they would be able to provide an improved messaging service and protect their income, with BlackBerry receiving a cut.

Plans were well developed when he and co-CEO Mike Lazaridis were deposed from their roles in January 2010 and replaced by the head of BlackBerry’s handset division, Thorsten Heins, who believed BBM was still a key driver of BlackBerry smartphone sales and a cross-platform version would aid its rivals.

Executive divisions

Other executives were divided. Some were supportive of the plans, but believed it would make sense to wait until BlackBerry 10 was released, while Lazaridis was concerned about costs. When Heins assumed the CEO position, he scrapped the project, with the support of Lazaridis, claiming there could be no distractions from the launch of its perpetually-delayed new operating system.

BlackBerry’s fortunes have worsened since and it announced it was putting itself up for sale last month. A preliminary deal with a consortium led by BlackBerry’s largest shareholder, Fairfax Holdings, has been agreed which would see the company taken off the stock market, although no deal has been concluded.

Ironically, it also hoped to launch a cross-platform version of BlackBerry Messenger last week, but its plans were scuppered by an unauthorised Android version causing headaches for the firm and resulting in delays.

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