RIM's Jim Balsillie wanted to open doors to BBM on iOS

A BlackBerry Torch and an iPhone

Rumor has it that RIM's recently-resigned co-CEO and board member, Jim Balsillie, sought a drastic plan to open up their infrastructure to wireless service providers, and allow competing platforms, like iOS, to run data through it. That would enable many signature BlackBerry services, namely BBM, to run on iPhone. It would also let carriers offer lots of other inexpensive messaging plans for access to Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks. Unfortunately, the rest of the management team saw the move as too drastic and risky, so shortly thereafter, Balsillie quit.

See, BlackBerry smartphones shunt all of their data through a central server infrastructure managed by RIM in order to improve security and handle compression when needed. Back when carriers didn't have support for data, RIM actually worked as an mobile virtual network operator, renting network capacity to sell their devices and service. Even once carriers developed the ability to handle cellular data on their own, RIM kept the network operating center set-up and integrated it tightly with providers selling BlackBerry handsets.

BBM on iOS has been whispered about for some time, but with iMessage in the picture, there may not really seem like there's much reason for it at this point. However, cross-platform mobile IM continues to be a problem in search of a great solution.

There are still other avenues RIM is exploring when it comes to supporting multiple platforms, namely through the recently-launched Mobile Fusion app for remote enterprise device management. The PlayBook operating system supports Android apps, too. While I think revamping RIM's archiecture would have been an interesting move, and carriers would likely have given it a shot (at least for awhile), service revenue has always been a relatively small piece of RIM's earnings; for a small increase in cashflow from carriers, RIM would lose a ton of BlackBerry sales since the devices really wouldn't be offering anything unique anymore.

Even though BlackBerry market share is continuing to spiral downwards anyway, RIM will have one last hoo-rah with the BB10 update this fall. If that fails, then maybe Balsillie's plan may see a resurgence, or, more likely, RIM will start locking in those licensing partnerships they've been talking about.

Do you guys think RIM would be able to stay alive if they got BBM on iPhone? Would a super-cheap (say, $5/month) unlimited social networking plan appeal to you?

Source: Reuters via Crackberry.com

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Simon Sage

Editor-at-very-large at Mobile Nations, gamer, giant.

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Reader comments

RIM's Jim Balsillie wanted to open doors to BBM on iOS

17 Comments

A super-cheap (say, $5/month) unlimited social networking plan? Are you kidding? NO THANK YOU! I will stick to the free apps...and $5 a month isn't cheap for IMing!

Another $5 a month? Per device? Added to my already huge monthly invoice? Not a chance!
I refuse to pay extra for a proprietary service. Besides, in a year or 2 who will be using a crackberry and BBM? I don't know anyone who actually likes their crackberry. BBM doesn't have nearly the appeal since iMessage was introduced. Unless BBM becomes a universal (mobile and desktop, all OS's) messaging platform, I can't see it surviving. And that wouldn't be feasible.

BB is done. This is like watching a ship sink; a slow, miserable, yet inevitable end to the titan Blackberry.
When you can be in a room, hear Marimba playing and 15 people reach for their phone, you know your day has past. Goodbye BBM... HELLO iMessage!

Clearly people are misunderstanding what you wrote, Simon. Typical. Nobody actually reads before they start whining and moaning.
So to clarify, Simon is asking you if a 5 dollar unlimited social plan could REPLACE your current iPhone data plan. It would only appeal to people who don't care about browsing or other data intensive stuff over cellular. That stuff would work only on WiFi.

It wouldn't replace it for me or I'm sure many others. I use a lot of data on a monthly basis for things other than iMessage/SMS/MMS, Facebook and Twitter or any other social network. I surf the web, big Pandora user and many other web services based applications as well as accessing my PogoPlug, so would I do it? NOPE!!! Would I like AT&T to get their network up to snuff? YEAH!!!!!!

I think the custom data plans wouldn't fly with Apple anyway. But it would have been smart for BB to try and license things since the trend is away from their devices anyway. This would help keep people on BES servers for a while.

I always avoided bb cuz of their $30 data plan ontop of regular service. With that said I'm already paying an extra $10 for unlimited data on sprint so another $5, no thanks bb.

this is what bugs me about people. nobody reads before they make a decision. the $30 is for all the data and blackberry services. you dont pay any extra for a blackberry data plan than you do for any other spartphone data plan

Before Imessage there might have been a temptation to buy something that brought BBM type service to the Iphone, but that time has passed. RIM started watching the checking account too closely and was dependent on corporations being lazy and slow....which is true....to not change from what they have been doing. I still miss the way blackberry handled email, twitter, facebook and the like, however I will not be going back anytime soon. While the iphone has a few things I do not like it has too many good features that make it a great phone.

there was a time when i would have loved bbm on iphone. then every person i know dropped their BB for an iphone an apple introduced imessage. too little too late once again RIM..

You people don't understand. It's NOT on top of your data plan. It is INSTEAD of it. It wouldn't allow for web surfing but would allow for texting and social media connection(twitter,Facebook, etc) for a greatly reduced cost to consumers who want those but have no use for web surfing or other things that would require a $30 data plan. It would also allow people to access those services on non smart phones, reducing their costs even more. A win for everyone including RIM. More security for everyone, data compression reducing network load, lower costs and the list goes on. iMorons.

i think apple should put iMessage onto other devices... android, windows and rim, and then take over text messaging! :D i dunno why blackberry users would want to pay monthly for bbm when they can use whatsapp or kik! apple need to take over text messaging!!!