According to TechCrunch, Dropbox has quietly acquired Zulip, the makers of a workplace chat solution for desktop and mobile, which has yet to launch publicly. Though still in private beta at the time of the acquisition, Zulip had already developed a suite of applications for Mac, Windows, Linux, iPhone and Android platforms that allow users to share public and private messages with their co-workers. Public messages would appear in streams related to the topic at hand, like Design, Sales, Support and more.
The reason why this little piece of information is important is because it tells us (and to a great extent verifies my suspicions), that there is a market for enterprise messaging platforms and many companies have taken notice.
Another interesting thing is that Zulip was founded by ex-Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) employs like Jeff Arnold, Waseem Daher, Jessica McKellar, Tim Abbott, and others. And the reason why I am pointing this out, is that Oracle is as much as an enterprise oriented company as they come. So if these people think there is a market for such software, that's probably because they have had enough interaction with the enterprise to come to that conclusion.
And guess what, reading the TechCrunch article, more or less Zulip is a basic Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) type of messaging system, but ported to all devices and desktop systems. However it is a much inferior product compared to BlackBerry's (NASDAQ:BBRY) BBM, because BBM can do everything Zulip can do and then some, based on the description I read in TechCrunch.
BlackBerry currently has about 80 million BBM users on, it has an enterprise-oriented customer base, and has a very robust messaging product. The way I see it, BlackBerry is way ahead of the game and can probably dominate the space if it ever gives it a try.
Which brings us back to the value of BBM, as I pointed out in a recent article (please consider: BBM Is Worth More To BlackBerry Integrated Than On A Standalone Basis), and the possibilities that are in BlackBerry's reach if it ever becomes serious enough to enrich BBM, so as to make it a full-fledged enterprise messaging platform. And my conclusion was that BBM can make good money for BlackBerry if it finds ways to charge for services.
And while all indications are that BlackBerry is planning on doing just that, it is also true that early bird gets the worm. Because as evidenced by Zulip, there are many other fish in the ocean that are thinking of making something that BlackBerry already has, and are rushing to bring it to market.
But it's not enough for early bird to get the worm. The early bird also has to change with the times. For example, just because BBM is a smartphone messaging app, does not mean it cannot go desktop.
While BlackBerry was the original smartphone device-maker, its inability to see the changes in the space when Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) first introduced the iPhone and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) introduced the Android OS, cost it the number one spot years ago, and today BlackBerry has very little of the market share it once had.
It is not enough to have a good product, you also have to bring it to market fast and you have to change with the times. In the case of BBM, BlackBerry needs to act fast, because as the case of Zulip proves, BlackBerry is not the only company out there developing enterprise level messaging systems (if that's what they are trying to make).
And while Ι do not think that Zulip itself is any kind of threat to BlackBerry's BBM, the truth of the matter is that one can never know what other products might come out and become the next best thing in the space just because you thought you were the big cheese and were never going to be threatened and took your sweet time to bring your product and idea to market.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.