Sharing the BBM love!

A big selling point of BlackBerry smartphones has been the instant messaging service – BlackBerry Messenger or BBM – as it’s traditionally been offered with the BlackBerry package.

But this just in! At a three-day BlackBerry Live conference, company CEO Thorsten Heins has revealed the popular BBM service is crossing platforms and coming to iOS and Android – as a free app.

In announcing the new expansion, Heins said, "It's time to bring BBM to a greater audience no matter what mobile device they carry."

And the company plans on making BBM as fully featured as possible on the newer platforms. At first, you can expect the launch of messaging and group features, with voice, screen share and more rolling out throughout the course of the year.

BBM will be able to support iOS hardware running iOS 6 and above. And Android will be compatible with version 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) and above.

You may be wondering why the company’s decided to share its exclusive BBM with the rest of the market now, especially when the service has long been a key selling point of BlackBerry smartphones ? well, says Heins, “We feel this platform and its product are standing on its own legs. That is the time to release BBM to another level and really let [it] flourish on its own.”

Its latest move is surely a gamble for the company, considering so many loyal users choose BlackBerry devices for access to BBM. But with ongoing rivalry with messaging services such as WhatsApp and WeChat, it could be time for BlackBerry to embrace other platforms with its distinctive offering.

What do you think: is this a good business move or has BlackBerry just sold off its key asset? Would you buy a BlackBerry rather than other phones on the market such as Samsungs or iPhones, which will soon also be able to offer the BBM service?

- By Faiza Mallick

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