RIM is luring third-party developers to creating apps for the BlackBerry ecosystem with its emerging Social Platform strategy, which will open up BlackBerry Messenger, or BBM, to third-party apps. Unfortunately, though, BBM is still limited to BlackBerry devices and won’t be opened up to other platforms, at least not at this time.
RIM is making the BBM APIs available to developers so that they can integrate it with their apps. For instance, it may soon be possible to have a Scrabble game with BBM integration so you can taunt your opponent online. The functionality of BBM may soon extend far beyond just a standalone chat application on BlackBerry phones.
With this beta release, Java developers have access to APIs and features that allow them to build important functions into their applications. They are user permission based and include accessing and updating fields in the user’s profile, creating custom areas within the user’s profile, initiating and embedding chats with friends, initiating file transfers, sharing applications virally with friends in their contact list.
At this time, BBM is an exclusive app for messaging and chat designed for BlackBerry smartphones and is the text equivalent of iOS’s FaceTime. The service, which is like an IM program and runs in the background doesn’t really waste battery and doesn’t eat into your SMS bucket for those with a limited or metered texting plan. Additionally, while it’s used for short messages, BBM also has the capability to mark messages as delivered and read, giving you instant feedback that your BBM messages are delivered. The feature has been a selling point on BlackBerry smartphones and still continue to entice a number of devoted platform users.
With the Social Platform strategy, RIM says that “the end user’s experience can now be extended beyond just messaging/chat to a whole new breed of socially engaging apps including multimedia, gaming, location-based services(LBS), VoIP, video and commerce.”