BlackBerry announced at its annual Live conference for developers yesterday that its popular BlackBerry Messenger or BBM would be coming soon to Android and iOS.
According to the company, the apps would be free on the two platforms and during the initial phase support would be offered on devices running iOS6, and Android 4.0 aka Ice-cream Sandwich and higher.
With the BBM Android and iOS app users would be able to engage in multi-person chats, and the ability to share photos and voice notes. They would also be able to engage in BBM Groups, which allowed BBM customers to create groups of up to 30 people.
BlackBerry also announced the beta launch of BBM Channels, a new social engagement platform within BBM that allowed people to connect with the businesses, brands, celebrities and groups they were passionate about. The company hoped to extend BBM Channels option to iOS and Android users as well, though it would of course depend on Apple's App Store and Google Play Store's approval.
BBM with BBM Channels was currently in beta for BlackBerry 10 smartphones, as also BlackBerry smartphones running BlackBerry 5 OS through 7.1.
With the increasing popularity of the iPhone and Android devices, free messaging apps that could be used across mobile platforms had grown in popularity.
Meanwhile BlackBerry was looking to growth in emerging markets such as Brazil and Indonesia with a cheaper smartphone and a plan for expansion of the popular instant-messaging system that helped drive growth in those countries.
BlackBerry sales in Latin America, South Asia, Africa and parts of Europe had held up better than in North America partly because BBM offered a free way for consumers to communicate in countries where the cost of internet data and text messaging is typically higher. According to analysts, chief executive officer Thorsten Heins was betting that widening the reach of BBM to users of rival devices would outweigh the short-term risks of losing the exclusivity on BBM.
Europe, the Middle East and Africa contributed 46 per cent of sales last quarter, up from 37 per cent three quarters earlier. Prior to that BlackBerry did not break out sales by those regions. Latin America continued to be stable at 14 per cent while Asia slipped from 21 per cent to 18 per cent.
''We now believe that BB10 is so convincing that we can let BBM grow on its own merit,'' Heins told reporters yesterday at the annual BlackBerry Live conference in Orlando, Florida.