Nokia and Windows Phone users have been asking for it — and earlier today Nokia and BlackBerry confirmed it: free messaging app BBM is coming to Nokia devices, both the Lumia devices based on Microsoft’s Windows Phone and the new Nokia X handsets built on a forked version of Android announced earlier today. The apps will go live “in the coming months”, and no later than this summer, BlackBerry says.
The app will go live first in the Nokia Store. It’s not clear whether it will be extended to other Windows Phone devices although this the trajectory that other apps have followed.
The move is significant for both BlackBerry as well as Nokia and Microsoft, and comes amidst a wave attention on messaging apps that are picking up hundreds of millions of users, with one of the biggest of all — Whatsapp — selling to Facebook last week for $19 billion.
What’s interesting is that BlackBerry seems to see the development as a boost for its enterprise business. “BBM continues to grow in popularity as millions of people use our mobile platform for chatting and connecting with friends or colleagues, and we are very excited that we will soon welcome Windows Phone and Nokia X users to the BBM community,” said John Sims, President, Global Enterprise Solutions at BlackBerry.
However, in reality apps like BBM have taken on a life of their own among consumers.
For Nokia and Microsoft, the app gives the companies another key app to continue to fill out its portfolio and prove to existing and potentially new users that devices are just as good and useful as their bigger and most established competitors, namely devices built on Android and Apple’s iPhones — the gold standards for apps and usually the go-to platforms for developers.
And as Stephen Elop pointed out earlier today, Nokia also specifically sees this app as another way to target developing markets, where Nokia has been focusing on winning over new smartphone users with lower-cost devices to counterbalance the fact that many mature markets are well saturated now with dedicated Android and iPhone users. “We are dedicated to the next billion,” he said today of the strategy, which is being bolstered also by the Nokia X forked Android handsets.
Chat apps like BBM (and Whatsapp) have become important ways for people to stay in touch. The reason for this is because chat apps like BBM are more functional than SMS — allowing for features like having multiple chats, group messaging, voice calls and stickers — and in many countries end up being easier to buy in smaller increments than full voice and texting plans.
For BlackBerry, this is an obvious move to help scale up its BBM business, continuing to provide a platform for communication for both ex-BlackBeryy device users who have migrated to other platforms, as well as for new users. There were no updates on the total number of users of BBM today, expept to say that “millions of people” are currently using the service.
New mobile chips are a big deal and 64-bit chips are an even bigger deal. To wit, Qualcomm has just announced the future availability of 64-bit eight-core Snapdragon chips, called the 600 series, with integrated LTE network handling. In short, these are some pretty beefy mobile processors that may be useless until Google launches its own 64-bit version of Android.
You’ll recall that Apple went 64-bit with the A7 last October a Qualcomm marketing exec called it a gimmick. Now, it seems, the internal scuttlebutt is that the A7 hit the chipmaker “in the gut” and that no one there was ready.
Luckily, they’re ready now. Peformance-wise this chip is supposedly on par or faster than Apple’s. The 601 is pin compatible with the slower Snapdragon 401 which means manufacturers can swap it out with ease without much engineering. While some wags would call 8-core mobile chips dumb, it’s clear that Qualcomm is interested in playing the speeds and feeds game along with their customers.
The cores are ARMv8 compatible which means they are backwards-compatible with 32-bit applications. This is an important consideration since there is very little that runs at 64 bits in the non-iOS ecosystem.
The chip will be available in the third quarter and should start shipping next year. In addition to the 1.5Ghz speed, the 600 series will also feature Qualcomm’s Adreno 405 GPU which brings DirectX 11.2 and Open GL ES3.0 to the handheld.
What does this mean for the average consumer? Not much… yet. 64-bit Android is still MIA although Intel and presumably Google are working on possible implementations. It’s obvious that this is a reactive move by Qualcomm to offer the “latest and greatest” in their mobile portfolio and I suspect we can see a uptake of the platform speed up if and when Google announces their 64-bit architecture. Until then, the words “eight cores” and “1.5GHz” can make for some great box copy for handset OEMs.
Facebook-led Internet.org Partners With Nokia On SocialEDU In Rwanda, Unilever In India, Ericsson On New Lab To Connect Developing Economies
Later today Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will be appearing onstage at Mobile World Congress — his first appearance at the Barcelona-based event — to talk about bridging digital divide. Ahead of that Internet.org, the Facebook-led project to help bring connectivity to developing economies, has unveiled a number of new projects: an education partnership with Nokia and local carrier Airtel, edX and the government in Rwanda called SocialEDU; a project with Unilever in India; and a new Internet.org Innovation Lab with Ericsson in its Menlo Park HQ.
SocialEDU, the pilot project in Rwanda, will give students free access to an online education platform. What’s perhaps most eye-catching about the project is that it will be run using low-cost smartphones and cloud services. Facebook worked with edX to create a MOOC-style experience that will be based around a mobile app that integrates with Facebook. Airtel will provide free data access for those who commit for a year, and Nokia will offer “affordable” (but not free) smartphones. Facebook notes that the Government of Rwanda will provide financing that will help schools take advantage of this.
The partnership with Ericsson, meanwhile, will see the launch of the Internet.org Innovation Lab, where developers can test apps either for communities with limited bandwidth, or to help engage those communities better. Borne out of work that Facebook and Ericsson did earlier around a developing economies hackathon, this will involve simulated network environments (but perhaps not actual users).
Finally, the FMCG giant Unilever will be working with Internet.org on a research project aimed specifically on rural communities in India — a country with just 13% internet penetration, and significant hurdles for that connectivity to be fast and reliable, particularly outside of large cities.
The more cynical may believe that companies like Facebook have a very specific commercial purpose to launching projects like this — as growth slows in more mature markets for the social network, the “next billion” is the big opportunity for Facebook — a concept that fits nicely with its other huge news, the purchase of messaging giant WhatsApp, which has proven to be a popular service in these regions.
But on the other side of the story, there is a wider benefit to projects like this. A study from Deloitte commissioned by Facebook found that improved internet access in developing economies can increase productivity by up to 25% and generate $2.2 trillion more in GDP, and 140 million new jobs.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.