ORLANDO (Florida): Name the one application that BlackBerry users value the most, and the answer is probably going to be the BlackBerry Messenger (BBM).
Indeed, with some 43 million users of BBM actively using the application and with 70% of those using it daily, it’s safe to say that BBM is one of the primary driving forces that make the BlackBerry so popular.
Right now, BBM is mostly used as a chat application that allows users to message other BlackBerry users either individually or in a group.
However, with the latest update to the BlackBerry operating system, RIM is trying to change that by extending BBM’s features to third-party applications with what it calls the “BBM Social Platform.”
With the Social Platform, RIM has now opened up access to the contacts list, invitation, chat, profile and data sharing APIs to third parties so that developers can create applications that take advantage of these BBM features from within their applications.
The simplest explanation of how it works is like this — if a person is using a football application, the application itself can support BBM chat so that the user can chat with other football fans from within the application itself without having to exit the application and going into BBM to message their friends.
Similarly, a game can have features similar to Twitter, in that when a person reaches a certain level in a game, the app itself will send out a BBM message announcing the achievement.
While the BBM platform currently doesn’t support, say, a transfer of a steady stream of real-time data back and forth to allow for co-operative gameplay (like racing against another player in Electronic Arts’ Need For Speed for example), it does have the ability to support a chat or achievement system that can work within the game.
To make things clearer, RIM brought in a number of developers to talk about how they have been able to integrate the BBM service into their applications using the BBM Social Platform.
Kobo is a popular e-reader available on most mobile platforms and is the e-reader that comes pre-installed on the PlayBook.
The developers at Kobo have for some time now, been trying to take the act of reading a book and turn it into a more social activity by introducing a feature called Reading Life.
Using Kobo’s Reading Life feature, users can check and see what their friends are reading and get recommendations as well as to chat with them in real time about the book.
With the PlayBook version, Kobo integrates the BBM contacts list into Reading Life, allowing users to browse the store and see if any friends have the book and message them for feedback.
Of course, Kobo’s real-time chat feature works within the PlayBook by taking advantage of BBM’s contacts list and chat APIs, all the while without the user having to leave the Kobo application.
Kobo developers are even experimenting with a badges and achievement system similar to the one on the Xbox, but applied within the context of reading an e-book.
Jingu is essentially an extension of BBM, and adds a bunch of more social and consumer-friendly features.
The Jingu application not only allows the user to create a custom avatar for their BBM but also to create and use custom emoticons and post messages to other users in the Jingu community.
An interesting feature of the Jingu app is that it allows users to chat with people in a BBM-like interface without necessarily having those people in the BBM contacts list.
The message posting can be directed to the community in general, or to specific groups based on geographic location, group, etc.
The contacts in Jingu, although based on the BBM contacts, are totally separate from the user’s actual BBM contacts list, although users have the option to add chat friends from Jingu into their actual BBM contact list if they wish to.
The application will be available in multiple languages, such as Spanish, Bahasa Indonesia and English, amongst others.
Interchange Group is responsible for making the Football Score Centre, a BlackBerry “super app” made for Sky Sports TV in Britain for football fans to follow and track their favourite teams and scores.
At its most basic, it allows fans to check football scores and to create a chatroom or a group of friends in which they can engage each other in chat during a football game.
Similarly, users can create multiple chatrooms so they can have, for example, friends in one chatroom, and fans of another team in the other so that they can “trash talk” fans of the other team.
While it looks like a custom app, with its own custom branding and look, this app from Interchange Group is actually largely powered by BBM.
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