Questions raised over BBM future as chief leaves BlackBerry abruptly

BlackBerry has confirmed that the head of its BBM instant messaging business, Andrew Bocking, has left the company.

The Waterloo, Ontario-based company did not disclose whether Bocking’s departure was part of an internal management shuffle or whether he left to pursue other interests.

The technology company, which is seeking to rebuild itself under the leadership of new chief executive John Chen, appointed in November, said only that Bocking “made the decision to leave BlackBerry”.

BBM had been seen as a potential revenue source for the company, which has seen its share of the phone market dwindle following unfavourable reaction to its new BB10 handsets launched at the start of 2013. BBM was introduced as a download for the iPhone and Android phones in September 2013, but the company has not released any usage figures so far. Rival messaging apps including Facebook Messenger, Snapchat and Line are reckoned to have more daily users.

Since taking the reins late last year, Chen has reshuffled management ranks and has signaled that he plans to focus more on the company’s services, or enterprise, business, which manages smartphone traffic on the internal networks of corporate and government clients.

But Richard Windsor of the Radio Free Mobile consultancy said the move was negative for the company. “It looks like Bocking left of his own accord. This is worrying for both what the inner circle [at BlackBerry] think of the prospects of a recovery [of the company] and for the future of BBM itself.”

BlackBerry said John Sims, who heads the company’s enterprise segment, will add the BBM team to his organisation. The company said it plans to build on BBM’s strength in messaging and expand it into new areas, including mobile marketing, community building and enterprise messaging.

But Windsor suggested that putting BBM under Sims “is as good as a death sentence. BBM has 80 million users, virtually all of whom are consumers.With this asset inside Enterprise, updates and features catering towards consumers will be non-existent, pretty much ensuring that users will be leaving the platform.”

He suggested that “BBM is the only reason for anyone to buy a BlackBerry device, and now that all the people who use it will not be catered for, the decline will be short and sharp.” He suggested that the moves “leads to me now valuing BBM at zero.”

News of Bocking’s departure was reported initially by tech news website BGR on Monday.

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Powered by article was written by Charles Arthur, for on Tuesday 11th February 2014 16.22 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


image: © C.P.Storm

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