Is iMessage the final nail in RIM's coffin?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from Arizona
Published: June 6, 2011

The discussion regarding Research In Motion’s perceived demise is a multi-faceted one. There are a lot of different discussions encompassed in the larger talk, but the perception of the end result seems to always be the same: that RIM’s time has an expiration date. But, there are services that keep RIM above the water, such as their venerable BlackBerry Messenger. A messaging service specifically built for BlackBerry-branded devices, it features stand-out elements that keep plenty of people coming back for it, and it alone. But, talk about RIM’s final nail in the coffin has stepped up with the unveiling of Apple’s new iMessage, the company’s new encrypted messaging service for iOS-based devices.

So what makes BlackBerry Messenger stand out, and how is it one of the features that keeps BlackBerry fans so entrenched in their mobile platform of choice? While a messaging service may not seem like enough to keep customers coming back, the features list for BBM is an impressive one. Starting with sent, delivered and read notifications for messages, it provides a bit more convenience for those who want to know when their recipient of choice has received, and read a particular message. There is also group messaging, providing a quick and easy to way to bring more people into a conversation. Sending pictures and videos is a possibility as well. And the whole thing is encrypted, providing more security for anyone who needs it.

BlackBerry Messenger is a service that many people, especially developers, have tried to mimic over the years. One notable application that may be the closest to replicating BBM’s services is Kik Messenger, and RIM was quick to notice the similarities and block the application entirely from their mobile platform. It was a move that was more than likely essential to keeping BBM a relevant service for Research In Motion, especially on their own handsets, as it kept BBM an exclusive property for their devices.

But, Apple has found a way to make BBM part of a different conversation entirely. No longer is BBM the exclusive, feature-laden service that’s only available for BlackBerry devices. At least, not in essence. You won’t find BBM on any other devices – at least not any time soon – but the service and features are now very, very apparent in Apple’s iOS mobile platform. With the unveiling of iOS 5, iMessage also took center stage. The new, integrated messaging platform is available for iOS-based devices, and provides an encrypted and obviously BBM-inspired messaging service for iOS users. iMessage features the ability to send and receive videos and pictures; it’s fully encrypted; there are typing notifications; and you will be able to tell when a message is sent, received, and read.

There’s an obvious reason that iMessage has WiFi support, and that’s due to the fact that there are WiFi-only iPads and iPad 2s available in the market, and let’s not forget about the iPod Touch. WiFi support was a necessity for the other iOS-based devices out there, and it’s a feature that throws a right hook towards RIM. The inclusion of 3G and WiFi support just makes iMessage even more user-friendly, and makes it impossible for BBM to stand out on any leg it may have had before today. iMessage is Apple's direct and powerful response to RIM's prodigal BBM, and it will be interesting to see if it's strong enough to supplant the current leader.

I think iMessage is a strong, strong reason for any current BlackBerry owner out there to give the iPhone a real look. I can understand why BBM would be a main reason to keep your BlackBerry, but it’s no longer just a service that’s available for BlackBerry. It’s just a name now. With the release of iMessage, and the fact that Kik Messenger is available for other mobile platforms, it doesn’t seem to me that BBM is a reason to keep a BlackBerry anymore.

So, here’s the million dollar question: is iMessage really the final nail in RIM’s coffin? Or are there plenty of other features available for the BlackBerry that stand-out versus the competition, namely Apple, which will keep BlackBerry owners on their device, despite the unveiling of iMessage? Let me know in the comments what you think.