In another blow, Blackberry suspends Messenger rollout for iPhone, Android

Unreleased version of Android app 'caused issues'

BlackBerry suspended the initial rollout of BlackBerry Messenger to iPhone and Android over the weekend following a horrific week of news for the Canadian phone maker, which plans to cut 4,500 workers and take a second-quarter loss of nearly $1 billion.

The rollout has been halted since Saturday, when an unreleased version of BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) for the Android operating system was posted online and "caused issues," which Blackberry has been working around the clock to fix, according to a post on Inside BlackBerry, the official BlackBerry blog. The suspension remained in effect as of 10 a.m. Eastern time on Monday, a BlackBerry spokeswoman confirmed. BlackBerry also has been offering updates about the issue on Twitter.

The problems with the unreleased Android app didn't affect BBM for iPhone, and those users will be able to continue to use BBM, although new BBM for iPhone downloads have been suspended. BlackBerry promised a staggered rollout of BBM for Android by country and said it will resume the rollout of BBM for iPhone "as soon as we are able." BBM for BlackBerry is unaffected.

BlackBerry said the unreleased Android app was disabled.

According to various reports, including one in the U.K. news site The Telegraph that quoted security expert Graham Cluley, BlackBerry may have been overwhelmed by the number of users trying to connect to BBM servers over the weekend. Cluley noted that multiple BBM apps appeared on Google Play posing as official releases when they were not.

BBM has about 60 million monthly active customers on BlackBerry devices. BlackBerry said an "incredible" amount of interest in the Android version led to more than 1 million downloads of the unreleased app within the first eight hours it was available online.

After weeks of rumors about job cuts, BlackBerry on Friday announced that it planned to lay off 4,500 of its more than 12,000 employees and write down an excess of Z10 smartphones it failed to sell. The results for the July to September quarter will reflect nearly $1 billion in losses, with sales of $1.6 billion -- about 45% lower than the same quarter in 2012.

BBM has been a bright spot for BlackBerry, but suspending the Android and iPhone apps is another blow on top of the company's bad financial news. The Waterloo, Ontario-based company in August said it had formed a special committee to explore a sale of the company or parts of the business. It isn't clear what would happen to BBM support if parts of the company were sold off.

Friday's announcement of layoffs "was a sad day for BlackBerry," said Jack Gold, an analyst at J.Gold Associates. "Sales were down almost 50% from expectations and that's really bad news," he said. "It's going to be very difficult for them to recover from this spiral ... BlackBerry is in a very dire situation."

This article, "In Another Blow, Blackberry Suspends Messenger Rollout for iPhone, Android," was originally published on Computerworld.com.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

See more by Matt Hamblen on Computerworld.com.

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