BlackBerry wants to rescue users of the doomed BBM messaging service by giving them access to its corporate product
- BlackBerry said it will open up BBMe - the enterprise version of BBM - to individual consumers.
- The move follows Emtek's announcement Thursday that it will shut down the once popular BlackBerry Messenger service on May 31.
- Emtek warned that BBM users will lose access to their conversations, photos, and other data after it shuts down BBM.
- It's unclear if BBM users will be able to port their accounts or data over to the enterprise version.
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BlackBerry says it has a lifeline for BBM fans upset about the impending shutdown of the once-popular messaging service.
The security software company announced Thursday that it is opening up the enterprise version of BBM - dubbed BBM Enterprise, or BBMe, and intended for corporations - to individual users.
BlackBerry's move follows the announcement earlier Thursday from Indonesian technology company Emtek that it was shutting down the consumer version of BBM, previously known as BlackBerry Messenger, on May 31. Emtek, which acquired the rights to the messaging service from BlackBerry in 2016, said that despite investing in new features, it wasn't able to attract new users to the service and to regain its past glory days.
"While we respect Emtek's decision, we're disappointed the platform did not thrive and grow as expected," Mark Wilson, BlackBerry's chief marketing officer, said in a statement. "After much consideration, we decided that BBM's loyal users should continue to have a secure messaging platform that they can trust."
Consumers can already download BBMe from the Google Play store and will be able to get it from Apple's App Store "soon," BlackBerry said. The company will allow individuals to use the messaging service for free for a year before charging them $2.49 (R35) for each half-year there after.
Despite their similar origins and names, BBM and BBMe are completely separate services. Although BBM users will be able to use their same BlackBerry IDs to log into BBMe, they'll need to create new accounts with BBMe with new passwords, BlackBerry spokeswoman Sarah McKinney said. And their BBM conversations, photos, stickers, and other data won't transfer over to BBMe, she said.
"It's a completely different service," she said.
Emtek warned BBM users that they would be unable to access their past conversations, photos, files, and stickers after it shut down the service.
It's not clear how many consumer users of the BBM service are out there waiting for a lifeline. McKinney said she did not know the current number of consumer BBM users. Emtek representatives did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
BBM gained popularity last decade when it was the default messaging service on BlackBerry devices, which were among the most popular smartphones of the day. It lost favor after Android phones and Apple's iPhones took over the smartphone market.
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