BlackBerry Messenger for Android, iOS launching this weekend


BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) announced its cross-platform Messenger chat applications for Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android and Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS will go live this weekend.

BlackBerry will roll out the free BBM for Android to devices running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and higher beginning at 7:00 am EDT on Sept. 21. BBM for iPhone, which supports Apple smartphones running iOS 6 and the new iOS 7, will follow on Sept. 22, launching in each local App Store market at 12:01 am local time.

BlackBerry first confirmed plans to port its popular Messenger service to iOS and Android in May. The cross-platform BBM will enable users to interact across multiple mobile operating systems and will include core features like one-on-one and multi-person text chats, voice and video chats, voice note sharing and BlackBerry Groups, which enables as many as 30 BBM users to share calendars, photos, files and additional content. Future versions of the iOS and Android apps also will support the forthcoming BBM Channels, a social engagement platform within Messenger allowing customers to connect with businesses, brands, celebrities and groups, as well as BBM Video calling and BBM Voice calling.

More than 60 million BlackBerry device owners use the BBM service, sending and receiving more than 10 billion messages each day. BlackBerry is opening Messenger to users on competing operating systems in an effort to rekindle consumer interest in its brand and combat a new generation of over-the-top messaging services like WhatsApp, Kik Messenger and Viber. BlackBerry also has revealed it is in negotiations with competing manufacturers to offer BBM as a preinstalled application on their phones.

Late last month, The Wall Street Journal reported that BlackBerry is mulling a plan to spin off BBM as a standalone unit. Sources said the subsidiary would be called BBM Inc., adding that BlackBerry is already transitioning executives to the BBM team and assigning engineers to expand the service beyond messaging. "We have announced our plans to offer this trusted mobile messaging service to iPhone and Android users sometime this summer," a BlackBerry spokesperson said. "We have made no further announcements."

The BBM Inc. spinoff plan signals that BlackBerry is attempting to position Messenger as a vital asset ahead of a possible sale of the whole company. Last month, BlackBerry said its board of directors has formed a special committee to explore its strategic alternatives.

For more:
- read this Inside BlackBerry blog post

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