One of the longest-running rumors in the smartphone world has been that BlackBerry (RIM, back when this got started) would open up the much-loved BlackBerry Messenger service to users on other platforms; for as popular as BBM is with BlackBerry users, the insular nature of the service has been a significant detraction. For the longest time, it seemed like BlackBerry had no interest in such a thing, but today the company has gone ahead and put all those old rumors to rest, formally announcing the coming availability of BBM for iOS and Android.
The basic structure of BBM will remain unchanged – contacts will still be two-way opt-in, but now BBM users will have a much larger field of potential contacts to choose from. They’ll be able to invite Android or iOS users to join in their conversations with invites sent over text, email, or with Android, NFC.
Pending approval, the iOS and Android apps should be out this summer, supporting iOS 6 and Android 4.0 or higher. The apps themselves will be free to download, but we wonder if there might not be a fee attached to using BBM itself; that was one component of past rumors, but BlackBerry didn’t mention anything along that line today.
What do you think of this news? Is this progress for BlackBerry, or tantamount to admitting that its closed-doors business model is in trouble? Has the availability of other cross-platform messaging solutions already made BBM obsolete?