BlackBerry testing money transfer service

BlackBerry has launched a pilot program with and Indonesian bank that allows BlackBerry users to transfer money to their contacts over the Black Berry Messenger service

The Waterloo-based smart phone maker is working with PT Bank Permata of Indonesia on the project which BlackBerry hopes will keep rival messenger services such as WhatsApp at bay, according to a report from
T.A. McCann, VP of BlackBerry Messenger said BBM Money is just one feature among many being introduced by the company to bolster the appeal of BBM. He said BlackBerry is trying to users that BBM is “well beyond just chat.”
The strategy takes BlackBerry to an unfamiliar territory largely held by companies such as Western Union Co. and MoneyGram International.

However, BlackBerry believes it is offering customers a simpler solution, according to Bianto Surodjo, head of electronics channel at PT Bank Permata.

“If they want to do the payment, they just go into BBM Money and they transfer in a simple way as if they were chatting,” he said.

Sending money via BBM with a Permata account will be free but transfers to contact who does banking elsewhere will incur a 52-cent charge.

Surodjo said the goal is to develop mobile financial transactions as a “habit” among smart phone users because BBM is already so ingrained in the communication practice of people in Indonesia. The BlackBerry is the leading smart phone brand in the country of 249 million people.

It is, however, a different picture in North America and other parts of the world where the number of BlackBerry subscribers has dropped from 80million to 79 million in last year. Large organizations such as the United States Defense Department and Home Depot have recently announced moves to switch to smart phone providers from BlackBerry to Apple.

The pilot program is limited to Indonesian mobile phone users of BlackBerry 5, 6, or 7 devices but not to the BlackBerry 10 devices which will be introduced in Asia in March.

Larry Berlin, analyst at First Analyst Corp. in Chicago says BlackBerry it going into a market with a lot of tough competition.

He said BlackBerry is probably making the right play “but it’s not going to be easy.”

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