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WhatsApp deal a reminder of another missed BlackBerry opportunity

Published Feb 20th, 2014 11:51AM EST
Facebook WhatsApp Deal BBM

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Facebook’s stunning $16 billion purchase of WhatsApp is both good news and bad news for BlackBerry. On the good news side, it means that the company’s popular BlackBerry Messenger service suddenly looks a lot more valuable than what many people had once thought — this explains why BlackBerry shares are trading significantly higher on the day after the Facebook-WhatsApp announcement.

On the other hand, WhatsApp’s smashing success is a reminder of what could have been for the Canadian smartphone pioneer. Kevin Michaluk of CrackBerry fame writes that he and many other loyal BlackBerry fans had tried pushing the company to make BBM a cross-platform service years ago but BlackBerry execs at the time apparently weren’t receptive to the idea.

“We were extremely vocal about BlackBerry taking BBM multi-platform YEARS ago, long before WhatsApp even had 50 users,” Michaluk writes. “It’s a good lesson. Servicing user needs is more important than protecting your ego. The demand was there big time for an all-platform messenger. BBM had it done. WhatsApp copied them feature by feature over the years. Heck, the first versions of WhatsApp were SO bare bones compared to where BBM was at when WhatsApp launched.  But WhatsApp’s lack of features compared to BBM at launch didn’t compare to what WhatsApp provided… basic cross platform messaging that wasn’t SMS reliant.”

This has been the story of BlackBerry for the past several years: It’s had some terrific assets that it hasn’t properly used in a timely fashion and, as a result, it’s been beat by competitors. Even so, BlackBerry has to be happy that there’s still terrific demand for BBM now that it’s gone cross-platform, even though it’s nowhere near the same level as the 450 million users WhatsApp has.

Brad Reed
Brad Reed Staff Writer

Brad Reed has written about technology for over eight years at and Network World. Prior to that, he wrote freelance stories for political publications such as AlterNet and the American Prospect. He has a Master's Degree in Business and Economics Journalism from Boston University.

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