How ‘Openness’ of Google Play messed up BBM Android launch

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By Ivor Soans /  22 Sep 2013 , 10:40

Despite all the negative news from BlackBerry, the BBM launch on Android was supposed to be one of the big happenings in the tech world on 21 September. At 12:00 AM EST (4:30 PM IST), BBM was supposed to go live on the official Android app store, Google Play.

At the time of writing, 17 hours after the deadline, the official BBM has not yet appeared on Google Play. What did appear were tens of fake apps, some purportedly coming from developers like BlackBerry Inc, etc.

On BlackBerry fan sites like Crackberry.com, chat rooms were choked with thousands of users venting their frustration. To make things worse, as New Zealand moved from 21 September to 22 September at 12:00 AM, BBM dropped on to the Apple App Store there. Then a bit later on to the App Stores in Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, India and so on.

A leaked image of the BBM app page on Google Play
A leaked image of the BBM app page on Google Play

Remember, BBM on iOS was supposed to come after BBM on Android was launched globally.

#BBM was trending on Twitter and Android users were exchanging links from where they could download a leaked BBM on an Android .apk file using which they could load BBM on their Android devices. And everyone reported it as working fine. BlackBerry today claimed that more than 1.1 million Android users started using BBM through this leaked Android .apk file in the first eight hours (As of 22 September, 12:30 am IST).

In what is now typical, bumbling BlackBerry communication strategy, there was no news from BlackBerry.

To make things worse, @BBM, the official Twitter ID for BBM actually tried to ease the tension by cracking what was a rather insensitive joke to the millions who were waiting for BBM on Android and getting angrier by the minute: “Hey, at least waiting at home is better than waiting in line. ;) #Android #BBM4ALL

An hour later, when someone who perhaps knew something about communications strategy in a crisis and that poking fun at angry users does not really dissipate anger and frustration, passed on the message, @BBM sobered up and said they were not playing favourites and soon started empathising with users: “Thanks for your patience #Android users! Working hard to get you the real #BBM ASAP. We’ll let you know when it’s live. #BBM4ALL

As things stand, around 4 hours ago, nearly 13 hours after the launch deadline for BBM on Android passed, @BBM finally had some real information to share, and also announced that after UAE, the BBM on iPhone rollout was also on hold as they tackled the BBM on Android problem. This means that Europe and the Americas will not get BBM on iOS till the BBM on Android problem is licked.

An official blog post by Luke Reimer, Business Social Media Manager at BlackBerry explained: “Prior to launching BBM for Android, an unreleased version of the BBM for Android app was posted online. The interest and enthusiasm we have seen already – more than 1.1 million active users in the first 8 hours without even launching the official Android app – is incredible. Consequently, this unreleased version caused issues, which we have attempted to address throughout the day.”

While Reimer went on to say that the unreleased BBM app would be disabled, we don’t buy this explanation. If the .apk was a leaked version of BBM on Android, there is no real reason why it should create problems. Surely the 1.1 million user number was no problem either as BlackBerry certainly expected far more than that number to download BBM from Google Play.

So, what gives? As we saw on Google Play today, we suddenly realised that most of the fake BBM apps, by developers like ‘BlackBerry Inc.’ have disappeared. This seems to be the real reason. Many of these apps already had tens of thousands of downloads within a few hours, so obviously many users downloaded the fake apps (that could even be malware) despite the descriptions of these apps being unprofessional and unclear.

Many users trust an official app store like Google Play would have basic standards in place and hence would blindly download an app that claims it is BBM and is developed by BlackBerry Inc. But as slightly more experienced Android users know, that is not the case. Google supposedly has an automated system that just scans the file for malware and then allows it to appear on Google Play. Because Google wants to be ‘open’ as compared to app stores like Apple’s and BlackBerry’s.

Atrocious? Yes it is.

Google Play is like the Wild West and yesterday millions of users waiting for BBM on Android seemed to have paid the price for Google’s poor standards for Google Play, where I can pretend to be any company and upload useless apps with exactly the same name and users can be conned and will download the fake app till the real company in question asks Google to take the fake app down.

So why didn’t BlackBerry open up about this?

One, perhaps BlackBerry didn’t expect this, which to be fair is BlackBerry’s fault-they are not a tiny company and even if they have not released an app of BBM’s magnitude of appeal on Google Play earlier (they have three enterprise apps on Google Play), they should know how a competing app store works.

Two, at this stage where BlackBerry is desperate to make BBM big as it goes cross-platform, BlackBerry needs Google more than Google needs BlackBerry. They need Google to promote BBM on the app store, despite the fact that BlackBerry is also signing promotional deals with Samsung and even home-grown Micromax.

We have no clue on when the official BBM app will finally come to Google Play, but seeing that Google seems to be weeding out the fakes, we estimate it should happen soon. But just in case you want to be safe rather than sorry, use this link, the page for official BlackBerry apps on Google Play to find out when BBM is really live.


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