Research In Motion (RIM) aims to leverage the popularity of its BlackBerry Messenger with a new music service that allows users to share songs with other subscribers, a feature not available on Apple’s ubiquitous iTunes.
It is a twist that the smartphone maker hopes will enable its BBM Music service to compete with iTunes and other established brands without taking them on head to head.
The company, which confirmed the launch yesterday, has struggled to match the popularity of Apple Inc’s iPhone and iPad, as well as devices running Google Inc’s Android software. That’s partly because rival platforms offer much more in the way of consumer--oriented music, games and other content.
RIM’s share of the booming global smartphone market fell to 11.7 percent in the second quarter, from 18.7 percent a year earlier, according to tech research firm Gartner. In the same period, Apple and Android took a combined 62 percent chunk of the market, from just over 31 percent a year ago.
For RIM, a stalwart of corporate communications, the new service is part of a crucial reinvention of the BlackBerry as an entertainment tool.
RIM hopes its music service appeals to the millions who chat via BlackBerry Messenger, or BBM, though analysts are unsure it will have much impact in content---saturated markets such as the US.
“They are a bit late — they’re late on a lot of fronts,” said Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney, who rates low-cost Android handsets as a major threat to RIM’s global growth.
Even so, he agrees that RIM “should do whatever they can to beef up BBM because it’s one of the linchpins in their international strategy.”
For a monthly subscription of about US$4.99, a BlackBerry user will be able to select up to 50 songs to add to their BBM Music profile from a catalogue of about 10 million tracks.
The Canadian smartphone maker has struck licensing deals with major labels including Vivendi SA’s Universal Music Group, Sony Corp’s Sony Music, Warner Music Group and EMI Group, as well as some independent labels.
The service, currently in limited beta, will become available in 18 countries in coming months, including the US, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Indonesia, Australia, Turkey and Mexico.