BlackBerry CEO: BBM to be released as a free app on iOS and Android this summer

If you can’t beat ‘em, develop for ‘em. BlackBerry will bring its popular BlackBerry Messenger software to both iOS and Android devices.

As we wait to see what Google will unveil at its annual I/O conference in San Francisco, BlackBerry used its yearly BlackBerry Live conference in Orlando, Fla., to announce its plans for the coming year. During his keynote, CEO Thorsten Heins said that the BBM messaging software would be available as a free app on both iOS and Android devices sometime before summer.

Here’s the type of conversation you can have on any phone starting this summer.

The news marks a significant occasion for BlackBerry: It’s the first time in a long time mobile device users have actually paid attention to what the once-dominant phone maker had to say.

BlackBerry has been forced to play catch-up in the touchscreen smartphone era. While its touchscreen Z10 garnered some positive reviews from the press, the reception with the public could charitably be described as dismal. And let’s not even mention the PlayBook.

Why expand BBM?

This de-cloistering of the popular messaging service will help BlackBerry retain the customers it still has by giving them the ability to communicate with the ever-growing pool of non-BlackBerry users within their preferred messaging app.

While it’s highly unlikely that BlackBerry will be able to make any huge inroads with dedicated Android and iOS users, the company may win back BlackBerry fans by returning to its Research In Motion roots with the physical keyboard enabled Q10, which will be available on three carriers this summer.

“We are confident that the time is right for BBM to become a multiplatform messaging solution,” Heins said Tuesday. By that, we take assume he meant that stopping the bleeding may be the best plan for the immediate future.

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