The end of BlackBerry support: WhatsApp with that?

At the end of last month, Facebook-owned WhatsApp announced it would no longer support a number of operating systems.

The messaging service explained this is due to rationalising the number of platforms they service. As a business, it simply wanted to focus on the platforms that most people use.

But not all the platforms that it dropped were strictly legacy. The BlackBerry 10 operating system has been dropped, and this represents the wider perception of where BlackBerry is at as a company.

>See also: Why Facebook has spent $19 billion on WhatsApp

It is true to say that BlackBerry smartphones don’t have a large share of the wider smartphone market and are therefore losing the backing from mainstream app developers. However, BlackBerry is still a staple in many companies and recognised for best-practice mobile security.

There are likely thousands of executives across the globe typing away on their BlackBerry phone keyboard right now. In fact, an article published last year focused on the fact that BlackBerrys were abound at the World Economic Forum in Davos. It’s still the phone of choice for many decision-makers and large corporate firms alike.

Focusing on the business market rather than consumers – which is broadly BlackBerry’s strategy – will losing WhatsApp really make that much of a difference to BlackBerry? Is WhatsApp really the messaging service of choice for businesses, or is it more likely to be used socially?

Either way, those IT departments that deploy BlackBerry devices will need to ensure they provide an alternative mobile messaging platform. Luckily, there are a number of options.

Firstly, BlackBerry recently acquired the mobile security provider Good Technology for $425 million. This means corporate BlackBerry users can get access to Good Technology’s Enterprise Suite, which offers highly secure mobile messaging under the Good Connect brand – a good option but currently only available for intra-company chat. However, this will likely change as the two companies continue their integration, so it should soon be available for external messaging too.

A second option is the BlackBerry Messenger, or BBM, which was incredibly popular among teenagers and corporates in the late 2000s. Now available on iOS and Android too, it offers the ability to communicate with users on other platforms and both insider and outside the company. It’s soon to be implemented in Good Technology’s Enterprise Suite and will subsequently benefit from the added security that comes with this.

The WhatsApp news is a good opportunity for heads of IT to pause for thought and think about where instant messaging fits into a wider communications technology – or mobile – strategy.

Instant messaging will always be useful to enable one-to-one and group conversations to take place. It’s been oft heralded as an easy way to improve productivity and with good reason. When it’s integrated into telephony and file sharing – so staff can click-to-call and easily share content on one platform – it can provide many more benefits than that of simple text messaging.

The likes of WhatsApp can be difficult to integrate – hence why it’s mainly a consumer application as opposed to an integrated productivity piece in a unified communications platform.

>See also: 7 million 18-30 year olds demand WhatsApp-style customer service messaging from their banks

However, instant messaging applications don’t necessarily have to be part of a unified communications platform. As BBM shows, it can instead work as part of a mobility strategy.

Nevertheless, a business does have to consider how it controls and contains contact information and communications history across the organisation, and operating lots of individual apps and products could become cumbersome, which leads back to the argument for incorporating instant messaging into a unified communications strategy.

Either way, for organisations that issue BlackBerrys to staff – or allow their use through a BYOD policy – the WhatsApp news is no cause for panic. However, it is a timely reminder of the benefits of instant messaging within business, and the importance of a communications strategy for enterprise, no matter what devices people use.

Sourced from Andrew Jackson, CEO, Intercity Technology

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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