BlackBerry Adding New Features to BBM, BBM to New Phones

BlackBerry, intent on keeping its user base intact, insists it's listening closely and delivering what users want. That includes an improved BBM.

BlackBerry says it's listening carefully to what customers want and has some changes planned for BBM, its most-loved app.

The next release of BBM will support photo-sharing in multiperson chats (already, users can send voice notes and share files via Dropbox in multiperson) as well as the ability to share larger files. While historically the limit has been 6MB, BlackBerry is markedly bumping that figure to 16MB.

If before that meant sending 6 seconds of 1080p HD video, at the same settings users will be able to send 16 seconds.

"We're taking your feedback and we're trying to knock it out of the park by bringing new features and improvements to BBM on a regular basis," Jeff Gadway, BlackBerry's head of product and brand marketing, said in a Feb. 28 blog post.

BBM Protected

Earlier in the week, at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2014 tradeshow, BlackBerry introduced eBBM Suite, a family of products and services it plans to slowly roll out to enterprise customers. The suite's initial offering will be BBM Protected, a messaging solution said to offer an "unprecedented level of end-to-end security" within an organization.

BlackBerry further explained: "Employees can also easily message their BBM contacts outside the organization with the privacy, control and security that is inherent to BBM. All within one instance of BBM; users don't have to download and mange two different messaging apps … and [IT doesn't have to] install any new hardware or software."

Other MWC announcements from BlackBerry included the introduction of the BlackBerry Z3 (code-named "Jakarta"), a Foxconn-made device headed for Indonesia in April; BlackBerry Enterprise Service 12 (BES12); and discussion of a BlackBerry Z20 smartphone for the U.S. market. Playing to BlackBerry's longtime user base, the Z20 will bring back classic QWERTY features that more recent models have evolved away from and an integrated trackpad.

It's another example of new CEO John Chen working to stabilize BlackBerry by simply keeping its current users in place. Twice in February, Chen was made to play aggressive defense, as companies—rival Good Technologies and partner T-Mobile—made announcements meant to chip away at the minimal market share BlackBerry has left.

Selling Off BBM

Rumors have persisted since before Chen took the CEO role in November 2013 that BlackBerry was considering spinning off BBM as a separate company, if not also selling it. At MWC, Chen confirmed to Bloomberg Television that he'd consider a sale.

"Running a public company, anything to help our shareholders I need to take a very serious look at," Chen said. "Today I think we need to build up that base and build up the innovation model."

In October 2013, BlackBerry made BBM available for iOS and Android devices, and at MWC it announced plans to additionally extend the app to Windows Phone users and the new Nokia X devices—the first Nokia smartphones to support Android apps.

In the Feb. 24 announcement, BlackBerry's Gadway repeated that BlackBerry is committed to being all ears.

He blogged, "You've spoken—Windows Phone users want BBM!"

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