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'The Sims' takes reins of BlackBerry Messenger as old chief Bocking departs

Messaging apps now part of enterprise services group

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The executive formerly in charge of BlackBerry's BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) division has left the company, casting uncertainty on the Canadian firm's plans for its mobile messaging service.

As first reported by tech website BGR, Andrew Bocking, a longtime BlackBerry veteran who had served as executive VP in charge of BBM, has parted ways with the company, effective immediately.

The exact circumstances of Bocking's departure are unclear. In an emailed statement, BlackBerry said Bocking had "made the decision to leave," and some reports have it that he was lured away by a BBM competitor.

If that's true, it's a blow to BBM and BlackBerry, which has positioned its messaging service as one of the key pillars of its turnaround effort under new CEO John Chen.

After keeping BBM exclusive to its own handsets for years, BlackBerry recently launched the service on Android and iOS in hopes of better competing with similar "over the top" messaging services from the likes of Viber and WhatsApp.

And as recently as last year, BlackBerry reportedly felt confident enough in BBM's moneymaking potential that it was considering spinning it off as a subsidiary company that would have had greater autonomy than it does under BlackBerry's current structure.

With Bocking's departure, BBM will now be folded into BlackBerry's enterprise services unit under Chen's handpicked lieutenant, former SAP exec John Sims.

It's not clear whether that reorganization signals a change in strategy for the BBM platform, and BlackBerry declined to comment further on the matter, except to observe that Sims "has extensive experience in mobile messaging."

Since becoming BlackBerry's chief exec, however, Chen has strongly suggested that the company will tighten its focus on the enterprise, after making losing bets in the consumer space that cost it billions in recent quarters.

Chen has also been cleaning house, removing several execs that were brought on board by his predecessor, Thorsten Heins – although Bocking's departure appears to have been voluntary. ®

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