BlackBerry bringing popular BBM to rival devices
Thorsten Heins, president and CEO at BlackBerry, holds up the new BlackBerry 10 mobile device on May 14, 2013, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Published Tuesday, May 14, 2013 6:42AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, May 14, 2013 4:39PM EDT
BlackBerry announced Tuesday that its popular BlackBerry Messenger -- or BBM -- will be expanded in the coming months to work on rival Android and iOS devices.
Until now, BBM service has been accessible to BlackBerry users only, allowing them to exchange messages for free with other users.
Earlier this year, the company unveiled BBM video chat as part of its BlackBerry 10 platform launch. But CEO Thorsten Heins said it is now time to make the service available on its competitors’ devices as well.
"It's a statement of confidence," Heins told the audience at BlackBerry's annual “Live” meeting in Orlando, Fla.
He said the application will be available for free for iPhone and Android users -- many of whom download services like WhatsApp, which provides a similar, though unrestricted, service.
"BBM actually was a key element of (why) people were going to BlackBerry," Heins said.
"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 BBM flourish on its own."
BBM for Android and iPhone will first roll out as a text-message service, and video and other components will be added later, Heins said.
Heins also used Tuesday’s meeting to unveil the BlackBerry Q5 -- a new low-cost smartphone built on the BlackBerry 10 platform.
The Q5 will roll out to "emerging" markets in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Latin America this summer, said Heins, holding up a red version of the phone."I think you're really going to like it."
The phone, which has a 3.1-inch screen and a physical keyboard, is a "sleek, slim, high performance device" that will be available in red, black, white and pink, he said.
Heins has made it a priority to expand BlackBerry's product offerings in the mid- and entry-level range in developing markets, since he took over a year-and-a-half ago.
"We understand the importance of having devices to suit all markets and needs and we have already said we will give global markets an opportunity to provide BlackBerry 10 performance in an ideal price range," Heins said.
Heins didn't provide any details about the cost of the new Q5 or whether it would ever be available in North American markets.
Earlier this year BlackBerry introduced the Z10 touchscreen device and Q10 keyboard version.
The Z10 went on sale in the U.S. in March, while the Q10 should go on sale south of the border in early June.
After concerns that the company was losing ground to iPhone, BlackBerry now appears to be on an upswing. In March, the company reported a fourth-quarter profit of US$98 million, beating analysts’ expectations.
Shares, however, were down 68 cents in afternoon trading Tuesday to $15.36 on the TSX.