BlackBerry will be opening up its messenger service to other platforms and will be available for free on Android and Apple's iOS by this Summer, subject to approval from Google and Apple. For many, the BBM was the only reason to bother purchasing a BlackBerry, offering a reliable, secure and free messaging service that has inspired a host of copycat apps including Whatsapp and WeChat.
In a bid to maintain its relevance in the smartphone market, BlackBerry incorporated voice and video chat capabilities onto BBM with its latest operating system the BB10 (still not available in the UAE), but the company has still been struggling to regain its leading share of the market.
The news came with the launch of the Q5, a cheaper phone aimed at emerging markets.
"It's time to bring BBM to a greater audience," said Thorsten Heins, chief executive of BlackBerry. "I cannot wait for the day when all of our BlackBerry fans can send BBM invites to all their friends on other platforms. They have asked us for this for years."
It remains unclear how this will affect BlackBerry-specific data packages offered by telecoms operators.
“BlackBerry finally realised that BBM wasn't the killer app that it used to be 18 months ago so instead of restricting themselves, moving the app across platforms at least ensures BlackBerry as a company and a brand stays relevant in the mind of consumers,” says Ashish Panjabi, chief operating officer at Jacky's Electronics. “By increasing the base of BBM customers...BlackBerry ensures they can focus on one of their inherent strengths, which has been their software and services business.”
There are currently 60 million BBM users worldwide.