RIM to Challenge Apple FaceTime with New BlackBerry Video Chat


Demonstration of how Apple’s FaceTime works on iOS devices, which is now also supported with Mac computers.
Source: CNet

A look at the current BlackBerry Messenger service.
Source: RIM


RIM’s overhauled BlackBerry Bold 9900, includes capacitive display and keyboard.
Source: RIM, via Bloomberg

The Ontario-based maker of the BlackBerry smartphone, Research In Motion Ltd, is working on a new communications platform that will include video chat capabilities directly from BlackBerry Messenger to compete with Apple’s FaceTime video chat service, according to a person familiar with the plans that spoke to us on condition of anonymity because the plans were not yet made public.

The platform will only support QNX-powered BlackBerry smartphones that will include a front-facing camera for video chat.

The delayed release of the first QNX BlackBerry smartphone is likely the result of compatibility issues with RIM’s BlackBerry Enterprise Server platform.

The first QNX powered BlackBerry smartphone will be released near the end of the first quarter of 2012 and will include the new communications platform complete with a front-facing camera, according to the same source. It is unclear if current BlackBerry OS 7 powered devices would support the application with limited functionality.

The latest U.S. mobile subscriber market share data published by comScore puts RIM’s platform market share down at 23.4% in June 2011, compared to Google at 40.1% and Apple at 26.6%, respectively.

RIM’s dated portfolio of devices have pushed consumers to competing platforms that offer a super user experience with push email, which largely explains the decline in RIM’s stock price as well. Consumers and businesses alike have largely been loyal to the BlackBerry platform because of BlackBerry Messenger (BBM).

Apple has announced iMessage, which largely offers the same functionality as BBM, complete with Delivered and Read receipts, for iOS 5 powered devices, which includes the iPad, the current iPhone 4 and the upcoming iPhone 5 that is expected to launch in mid October of this year.

 The person familiar with the plans said RIM is cautiously working to keep BBM relevant to consumers as Apple introduces iMessage.

RIM will also add new social functionality to BBM, starting with a new music feature that will allow users to share up to fifty songs with other BBM users through BlackBerry Music.

It is important to note that while competitors could offer similar BBM functionality, only RIM holds patents that give the company proprietary advantages through BlackBerry Enterprise Server, something corporations with larger deployments would be very hesitant to abandon.

The RIM stock (NASDAQ:RIMM) has lost about 60% of its value since March 2011 as at this article date, largely attributable to poor forward-looking guidance the company provided on future expected sales and earnings. The stock recently experienced a uptrend gaining about 35% starting from about mid August to today after the company released the popular BlackBerry Bold Touch running OS 7 which includes a number of improvements including improved hardware with a capacitive LCD and a physical keyboard and a much improved HTML5 browser.

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Murad is an engineering graduate from Centennial college in Toronto, Canada. Write to [email protected]
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