BlackBerry Performs a Mercy Killing


BlackBerry is doing the inevitable, informing its subscribers that it will be shutting down its BBM Music service in two months.

The late 2011 rollout of BBM Music was flawed from the start.

The price was right at $5 a month. The model itself is what was ridiculous. Subscribers would have access to just 50 songs -- swapping out as many as half of them in any given month. The social gimmick was that then they would be able to access the 50 profile songs of anyone that they befriend on the platform. That was supposed to be the viral elixir, but we had seen how well social sharing went for Microsoft's Zune.

Those of uswriting about BBM Music at the time of its launch in November 2011 were unimpressed.

It's not the first time that a company took too long to realize that it failed in social music.

Microsoft overstayed its welcome with the Zune portable media player that was never able to make a dent in Apple's leading iPod platform. Apple itself wasn't successful. Its own attempt at making music social -- Ping -- was mercifully scrapped from iTunes two years after its launch.

Smartphone companies need to let the social companies worry about social. Halfhearted attempts aren't going to make their platforms any stickier.

The writing was on the wall for BBM Music when it wasn't part of the BlackBerry 10 mobile operating system upgrade. However, it was doomed from the start. Who would pay $5 a month and have to jump through social hoops when Spotify has millions of songs streaming on demand for just twice as much? If money was a factor, Pandora is the popular choice of ad-based free streaming. There were 67.7 million active monthly users of Pandora's service in February, and it's one of the music apps that have been ported to BB10.

If there's any surprise here, it's that BlackBerry is eliminating its proprietary music service at a time when popular streaming apps including Spotify and Rdio haven't decided if BB10 will grow enough to justify developing a BlackBerry app. There's a void to fill, but it doesn't look good when even BlackBerry is throwing in the towel.

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