Today, during the BlackBerry Live Keynote, the company announced that it will be launching BlackBerry Messenger—BBM—on iOS and Android this Summer. This is a big move for the company, which has found itself increasingly trapped in a badly-built prison of its own making.
Now, BlackBerry will make one of its most popular features to users of superior phones who aren't willing to jump onto BlackBerry's otherwise lackluster platform. If you haven't seen BBM working on BB10 yet, you should. It's a very slickly designed chat experience.
According to BlackBerry CEO Thorston Heins, the service will launch only with messaging and groups, but it will later expand to voice, screenshare, and the company's new company-centric "channels" service.
This is a very smart move for BlackBerry as excellent cross-platform chat becomes an increasingly important sphere companies are battling over to win customers.
There's reason to believe that this is going to be the next killer smartphone feature. Facebook Messenger's SMS support with the newly-developed chat head halos has been a significant move into this area on Android. What's more, Google is expected to launch a unified chat hub under the "Hangouts " monicker during the Google I/O keynote tomorrow. Indeed, the whole reason standalone services like GroupMe and WhatsApp exists is because none of the huge tech companies has managed to get this right yet.
BlackBerry did it first and best—and should have opened BBM to Android and iOS years ago. Now that everyone has turned to the services that swooped in to fill the void for Android and iOS, it might be too late for BBM to catch up.
On the other hand, BlackBerry has been consistently innovative in messaging, and if it can offer some features others haven't yet, the service might have a chance. Even BBM competitors haven't nailed BBM's seamless transitions or features like screenshare—at least not as well as BBM. It turns out BlackBerry's great hope might be communication rather than the keyboard used to bang it out.