If you have been desperately waiting for the much-awaited launch of BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) for Android and iPhone, your wait may be over.
Latest news from tech pioneer BlackBerry is that it has agreed to a probable $4.7 billion buyout by a consortium planning to take the struggling smartphone maker private.
Android and iPhone users in the UAE and across the world are now in day 3 of their wait for the BBM app and while there is still no update on when the BBM App will be launched - not on bbm.com or on Inside BlackBerry, the official blog, these behind-the-scene happenings at the Ontario-based company suggest one possible reason for the delay of the app launch.
A done deal should clear the way for the app launch.
Bocking a call
Or, as BBM chief Andrew Bocking explains on Inside Blackberry, there may be another reason.
This is what Bocking posted on the blog:
Hi Android and iPhone users,
This is Andrew Bocking, head of BBM at BlackBerry. As a follow-up to our first blog post on Saturday, I want to take a moment to provide you with an update on the rollout of BBM on Android and iPhone.
Last week, an unreleased, older version of the BBM for Android app was posted on numerous file sharing sites.
We were aware of an issue with this unreleased version of the BBM for Android app. This older version resulted in volumes of data traffic orders of magnitude higher than normal for each active user and impacted the system in abnormal ways.
The version we were planning to release on Saturday addressed these issues, however, we could not block users of the unreleased version if we went ahead with the launch.
We attempted to address the problems caused by the unreleased version throughout Saturday, but as active users of the unreleased app neared a million – and accelerated – it became clear that the only way to address the issue was to pause the rollout for both Android and iPhone.
The team is now focused on adjusting the system to completely block this unreleased version of the Android app when we go live with the official BBM for Android app.
We are also making sure that the system is reinforced to handle this kind of scenario in the future. While this may sound like a simple task – it’s not. This will take some time and I do not anticipate launching this week.
When the wait began
Previously exclusive to BlackBerry smartphones, BBM was to be available as a free download in Google Play and the App StoreSM. Customers will be able to download BBM by visiting www.BBM.com from their smartphone browser.
Inside BlackBerry, the official blog for the company wrote on September 21: "Prior to launching BBM for Android, an unreleased version of the BBM for Android app was posted online. Consequently, this unreleased version caused issues, which we have attempted to address throughout the day."
"Our teams continue to work around the clock to bring BBM to Android and iPhone, but only when it’s ready and we know it will live up to your expectations of BBM.
"We are pausing the global roll-out of BBM for Android and iPhone. Customers who have already downloaded BBM for iPhone will be able to continue to use BBM.
"The unreleased Android app will be disabled, and customers who downloaded it should visit www.BBM.com to register for updates on official BBM for Android availability.
"As soon as we are able, we will begin a staggered country roll-out of BBM for Android and continue the roll-out of BBM for iPhone."
However, news agencies today reported that Fairfax, a Canadian firm headed by billionaire Prem Watsa, is already BlackBerry's largest shareholder with approximately 10 per cent of its shares.
Watsa resigned from BlackBerry's board in August when it announced a search for a suitor. Watsa said the sale "will open an exciting new private chapter for BlackBerry, its customers, carriers and employees."
"We can deliver immediate value to shareholders while we continue the execution of a long-term strategy in a private company."
Ironically, the announcement came on the same day Apple said it sold a record nine million iPhones in three days after launching two new versions of its smartphone last week.
Under the proposed BlackBerry-Fairfax deal, the consortium would offer $9 for each outstanding share, and Fairfax would contribute its own shares in the transaction.
BlackBerry said its board supports the plan.
A firm deal, once due diligence is completed, is expected by November 4. It also hinges on the consortium obtaining financing.
BlackBerry said it would continue a search for a possibly better suitor in the interim.
BlackBerry stock was down six per cent to $8.23 before trading was halted just prior to its announcement.
Its shares bounced back in afternoon trading to close at $9.08 but remain far below the stock's historical high.
Analysts reacted with measured optimism.
"This is probably the best possible outcome of several unattractive options for BlackBerry," said analyst Jack Gold of J. Gold Associates.
While BlackBerry helped create a culture of mobile users glued to smartphones, many have since moved to iPhones or devices using Android software like Samsung's Galaxy range.
According to International Data Corporation, BlackBerry's global market share had slipped to 3.7 percent in the second quarter, the lowest since tracking began. Android accounts for nearly 80 percent.
For Roger Kay at Endpoint Technologies Associates, BlackBerry grew complacent and was "blinded" to competitive threats.
"BlackBerry hung its hat on the physical keyboard, they believed that for people who do a lot of typing they need a keyboard," Kay said.
"By the time it got the touchscreen it was too late. In this industry if you miss a couple of product cycles, you're pretty much toast."
The company, formerly known as Research In Motion, unveiled a new corporate name and a new platform in January as it sought to regain momentum, but its most recent numbers suggest this has been a spectacular failure.
$1bn loss and job cuts
On Friday, the company announced it was laying off 4,500 staff -- or one-third of its global workforce -- after a dismal launch of new smartphone models earlier this year.
It predicted a nearly $1 billion second quarter loss due to poor sales of its new Z10 touchscreen smartphone, which was aimed at competing with Apple and Android's flagships.
Gold and other analysts said going private -- and possibly returning company founder Mike Lazaridis to the helm -- would give the firm room to "put the house in order."
Going forward, BlackBerry would be a much smaller player in handheld devices, but Gold said "being private would mean Wall Street is not continuously breathing down their neck."
Furthermore, its key enterprise customers may not feel compelled to replace their BlackBerry servers for fear that the company is going out of business.
"It could provide them with cover to re-architect the company even more than they are now," said Gold.
Boston University professor N Venkat Venkatraman said the company could attract firms like IBM, HP or Dell if it focused on business communications not private consumers.
The company's sustainability, however, would still remain in doubt.