Daily deals services uses BBM status to avoid unwanted e-mails

BBM Baby launches a discount service that uses "non-intrusive" BlackBerry Messenger status updates to broadcast offers.

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A Dubai-based startup has launched a daily deals service with a difference - one that uses BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) to avoid sending "intrusive" email messages.

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BBM Baby, launched by Simon Hudson, 28, and Amanda Hollinshead, 30, broadcasts details of special offers using BlackBerry's free messaging service.

Unlike sites such as GroupOn and GoNabit, BBM Baby does not send out daily emails to promote deals.

Customers are instead asked to add a special PIN to their BlackBerry Messenger contacts, and are then able to view discounts as status updates.

"If you get a broadcasted message, it can be annoying because it's an invasion of your privacy. But with a status update, they've chosen to add that PIN," said Ms Hollinshead.

Current deals include cheap gym membership, discounts on restaurants and hotel stays.

Each offers is broadcast as a BBM status update for three hours a day, with users able to click through to a mobile website for more details.

The startup is one of several daily deals services to have launched in the Mena region. Some other startups have attracted criticism for bombarding consumers with unsolicited emails - something that does not apply to BBM Baby.

BBM Baby is not currently a trading as a company, and is currently promoting existing deals for free.

But Mr Hudson said the startup plans to start charging companies Dh500 per three-hour BBM broadcast, adding that he is currently seeking investment to fund the expansion of the service.

The popularity of BlackBerry in the UAE was a driver behind the launch of the service, he said.

"When I came to Dubai, I was amazed at how many people have a BlackBerry. I went out on my second week in Dubai and got asked by three people 'what's your PIN?'," said Mr Hudson.

A survey released this week found that BlackBerry is the most popular smartphone in the UAE, with 51 per cent of respondents saying they used the device.

According to RIM, which manufacturers the handset, 96 per cent of BlackBerry owners in the UAE use the BBM service, compared with 70 per cent globally.