Things are starting to look desperate for BlackBerry. Today Research in Motion launched BlackBerry's "new social music sharing and discovery service," the company announced in a press release. For $5 a month, users can store a whopping 50 songs to share with others via BlackBerry Messenger. The more friends you have, the more music you can access. It sounded underwhelming to us to begin with, and it is indeed pretty lame. Considering their competitors discovered cloud music years ago, BlackBerry is quite late to the game. And even though the service has an interesting concept, it's much too little, way too late for the once-popular cell phone. Looks like this will be another dud, along with its line of not-so-novel new phones--not enough for poor BlackBerry to pull itself out of its slump.
On the surface, the new music service elicits a lot of 'huh?'s. First of all, the app only allows for storage of 50 tracks, a fraction of what you can get with the myriad apps (plus iTunes) available on the iPhone. Gizmodo's Casey Chan finds it utterly unimpressive. "The $5/month fee lets you keep 50 songs in your personal profile, which, of course, is disgustingly little. Laughably tiny. Size, in this case, is everything." And then if you get sick of your tiny stockpile of music, you can only switch 25 songs per month. And for what you get, it's a bit pricey. People might not pay up, guesses PaidContent's Ingrid London. "For starters, even with a market-beating price tag of $5, RIM may still find it hard to get users to pay for the service." Especially since it's not really worth it argues TechCrunch's Jordan Crook. "In truth, the bang you’ll be getting per buck isn’t all that great, especially if you’re lacking in the social department."
But the app actually has one very clever aspect: You can so easily share music with your friends. While Chan finds it "mildly cool," it's actually a bit cooler than that. This makes sharing songs very, very easy. People like that, as Universal executive Rob Wells told The Guardian's Juliette Garside. "A major component of online music continues to be about community, and the ability to discover new artists and music through word of mouth. BBM Music dynamically and elegantly integrates the excitement of this social music discovery process with a high quality music service." It will be like back in the days of the mixtapes, which really were very awesome. "It evolves the mixtape," BlackBerry product manager Nick Patsiopoulos said in a statement reports Rolling Stone. "It makes it easier and faster."
This idea of a portable, digital, cloud-based mixtape is awesome, but it only works if there are enough people on it to make it social. But as less and less people buy and use BlackBerrys, the music service loses its sparkle. And it doesn't look like their new phones will lure more BBMers, as we pointed out. Thus, this is not likely to save them now--too many people have already abandoned ship. This might've worked when BBM was all the rage, as Chan points out. "Man, this BBM Music sounds like it would've killed in the early 2000s though!" But the problem is that Research in Motion works like a really innovative late-90s company, that's just not going to cut it.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.