alt

This is an excerpt from The Message, Smooch's biweekly newsletter about the messaging industry, chatbots and conversational commerce. Subscribe to get the next edition delivered straight to your inbox.

alt

Smartphone Pioneer Accuses Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram of Patent Infringement

An exclusive, proprietary, rich messaging app that works over the internet and allows customers on similar devices to chat with each other for free.
 
Before that description applied to Apple’s iMessage (among other contenders in the ongoing messaging wars), it belonged to BlackBerry Messenger, the once-darling chat app of the early 21st century.
 
How things have changed.

The dawn of modern messaging 🌅

The Canadian company formerly known as Research in Motion launched BlackBerry Messenger in 2005, two years before the first iPhone came out.

In the early smartphone era, the notoriously addictive “CrackBerry” was the phone of choice for business professionals — and BBM was a key ingredient in its secret sauce.

BlackBerry users loved that BBM was faster, cheaper, more secure and more sophisticated than SMS, the only real mobile messaging alternative at the time.

An epic fall 📉

In late 2013, BBM finally opened its gates to Android and iOs users. By that point, however, the company had fallen prey to its more innovative competitors and in 2017, BlackBerry’s share of the smartphone market officially dropped to 0%, dragging the messaging app down with it.

Now BlackBerry is taking aim at one the companies that supplanted it.

Revenge in motion 🔪

In its lawsuit, BlackBerry accuses Facebook of infringing several software patents in its Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram apps.

The patents cover a variety of concepts, including:

  • Using icons with numeric badges to signal the arrival of new messages
  • Tagging people in photos using an auto-completing search box
  • Marking a significant lull in a text message conversation by inserting a timestamp reflecting the time of the next message
  • Changing how a mobile device sends messages depending on whether they're being actively read by the recipient's device
  • Muting a message thread

From ArsTechnica:

"In short, BlackBerry claims to own some of the most common features of modern mobile messaging apps, whether they're made by Facebook, Apple, Google, or anyone else. BlackBerry has asked the court to enjoin Facebook from infringing these patents, which could require Facebook to dramatically overhaul these apps or even shut them down altogether."

Facebook’s lawyer responded with guns blazing:

"Blackberry’s suit sadly reflects the current state of its messaging business. Having abandoned its efforts to innovate, Blackberry is now looking to tax the innovation of others. We intend to fight."

While most observers expect the matter to be settled out of court, BlackBerry’s lawsuit highlights how far the mobile industry has come in the last decade and how the once-novel touchstones of modern messaging have come to be seen as commonplace.

Of course, that doesn’t make them any less powerful.

Is Google Hangouts Chat the next Slack killer?

Another frontier of the messaging wars is heating up.

Most consumer chat apps are less than a decade old but workplace messaging platforms like Slack have transformed the way we work and communicate with colleagues in half that time.

Last week Google took Hangouts Chat out of beta and rolled it into its enterprise suite. The chat platform benefits from deep integrations with other Google productivity tools like Gmail, Docs, Sheets, Slides and Hangouts Meet, its web conferencing software.

All about those bots 🤖

As Mac Rumors notes, Hangouts Chat also takes advantage of Google’s considerable efforts in artificial Intelligence:

"In one example, Google shows how one person could ask a @Meet bot to "Plan a review meeting next week," and then the bot would communicate with Google Calendar to find the best time for all employees involved in the chat, create the meeting, and then add it to each person's calendar."

According to Google, developers will be able to craft their own bot integrations using the Hangouts Chat developer platform and API.

It’s getting crowded in here 🙅‍

Hangouts Chat joins an increasingly fragmented space led by Slack, Atlassian’s HipChat and Stride, Facebook’s Workplace and Microsoft’s Skype for Business and Teams, which is poised to roll out a few key improvements.

No wonder startups like m.io, which announced $5.75 million in funding this week, are promising “universal messaging” across these siloed platforms.

Meanwhile, Newsday notes the rise of enterprise chat as a “modern-day watercooler” brings a host of new issues around privacy, security and harassment that businesses and employees will be wrestling with for years to come.

We’ll be watching closely. 👀