Rumor Mill: BlackBerry weighs Messenger spinoff

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BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) is considering a plan to spin off its signature Messenger chat service as a standalone unit, sources familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal.

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. BlackBerry has already revealed plans to port BBM to Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS and Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android in the coming weeks, enabling BBM users to interact across multiple mobile operating systems. The embattled manufacturer is additionally exploring plans to roll out a version of BBM optimized for the desktop, one insider said.

"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."

Roughly three out of every four BlackBerry device owners use BlackBerry Messenger, corresponding to roughly 60 million active users worldwide and more than 10 billion messages per day. BlackBerry has also taken steps to expand BBM's feature set in an effort to fend off competition from multi-platform OTT messaging apps like Skype, WhatsApp and Viber: The device maker is testing a new mobile money transfer application integrated directly into the Messenger service and is rolling out BBM Channels, a new social engagement platform within Messenger allowing customers to connect with businesses, brands, celebrities and groups.

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

News of the special committee broke just days before research firm Gartner reported that sales of smartphones running Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFTWindows Phone operating system outpaced BlackBerry device sales for the first time ever during the second quarter of 2013. Consumers across the globe purchased 7.4 million Windows Phone devices in the second quarter, up from 4 million in the year-ago period and corresponding to 3.3 percent smartphone market share, while BlackBerry sales slipped from 8 million in the second quarter of 2012 to 6.2 million in the most recent quarter, and its market share plummeted from 5.2 percent a year ago to just 2.7 percent.

For more:
- read this Wall Street Journal article

Related articles:
BlackBerry exploring 'strategic alternatives' including sale
BlackBerry issuing Messenger beta invites to Android, iOS users
Report: BlackBerry Messenger for Android coming by late September
BlackBerry in talks to preload Messenger on rival mobile devices
BlackBerry Messenger apps coming to iOS, Android this summer
BlackBerry trials mobile money transfer service over Messenger

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