Once a king of the mobile-device scene, BlackBerry in recent years has watched helplessly as Apple’s iPhone and a growing collection of Google Android devices devastated its market-share. For many of those years, BlackBerry tried fighting fire with fire: all the popular smartphones had touch-screens, so it started releasing phones with touch-screens; other companies released tablets, so it released a tablet; and so on.
Under CEO John Chen, BlackBerry has switched back to pursuing its own course, focusing on security and the enterprise as opposed to consumer apps. But the company hasn’t quite shaken free of that urge to chase the market: at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) team announced a new feature for Android Wear smartwatches.
Yes, BlackBerry is (sorta) getting into the wearable-electronics game.
The BBM app will allow smartwatch wearers to see messages, view and accept invites, and use voice (in conjunction with Google Now) or a pre-defined list of responses to answer messages.
“One of my friends is a DJ and he told me he’s looking forward to being able to see his BBM messages without having to take his hands off the turntables,” reads a note about the software on BlackBerry’s corporate blog. “Now what’s his excuse for not playing my request?”
That’s a bit of an odd rhetorical angle to take, considering BlackBerry’s refocus on business over the consumer realm, but it does hint at something interesting about the nascent smartwatch industry: nobody’s quite sure whether it’ll have an impact, much less how big, and much of the tech world’s attention at this early stage seems focused on the consumer rather than commercial applications.
By sticking with software as opposed to hardware, BlackBerry avoids the potential of another Playbook-sized debacle; it remains to be seen, however, whether BBM can gain any traction on an Android-powered timepiece.