Is IMessage The Death Knell For BlackBerry?

The Cupertino, Calif.-based iPhone maker’s instant messaging client iMessage, introduced on Monday at its WWDC event, will be included in iOS 5, set to launch this fall. The service, which is compatible with all iOS devices, including the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, will run over 3G and Wi-Fi rather than via SMS text.

IMessage will allow iOS users to send texts, photos, video and contact information all in one messaging window, and even have group messaging like in a private chat room. Users can track when their message is delivered, and also when someone is typing a reply back.

If a person has both an iPhone and iPad, iMessage will allow jumping between two devices instantaneously and picking up a chat mid-conversation.

Although plenty of iOS users are looking forward to the debut of iMessage, it could spell a lot of trouble for RIM, makers of the BlackBerry line of smartphones.

One of the biggest selling features for BlackBerry devices, especially for non-businesses, is the BBM chat feature. BlackBerry users can create buddy lists with other BBM users and instant message them all in one window and chat in real-time.

With the introduction of Apple’s iMessage, the BBM-type messaging client is not exclusive to the BlackBerry line anymore.

IMessage is just the latest instance of Apple targeting the Canadian company and its smartphone. The stranglehold BlackBerry held on the professional and business world has begun to erode, in part, to the consumer’s preference of the iPhone as their go-to handset.

In the corporate world, the Deutsche Bank is piloting a program to allow its employees to access work e-mails on their iPhones, rather than using traditional BlackBerry devices.

Thanks to a new application called Good, which more effectively encrypts business e-mails and data in a way that was lacking in the iPhone since its launch, Apple now has its foot in the door in the business world.

Apple has even hired several former BlackBerry employees to make advances in securing Apple’s presence in the business smartphone sector. In November 2010, Apple hired at least five members of RIM’s enterprise-sales team, including Geoff Perfect, head of strategic sales for almost five years. He is now Apple’s head of enterprise iPhone sales.

IMessage may chip away further at RIM, already struggling to maintain its foothold in the smartphone market, but it could find some opponents among mobile carriers, who may not appreciate the ability to send messages that can bypass SMS.

IMessage could be a potentially huge blow to the BlackBerry brand, as iOS users now have another option to have a BBM-style texting client. Google’s Android has already leapfrogged RIM, and the once mighty smartphone maker may see a further slip once the fall season arrives.

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