BlackBerry considers spinning off Messenger as separate business

BlackBerry logoBlackBerry Messenger (BBM), the messaging service that has existed exclusively on BlackBerry phones for years, may soon be set (partially) free. According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, BlackBerry is considering spinning off the Messenger service as a subsidiary company that would operate more independently from the Waterloo, Ontario, mothership. BlackBerry is already preparing to release BBM for iPhone and Android and is moving to position the service as a broader social media and communication platform.

The Journal reports that the subsidiary, which would be named BBM Inc., would move to offer additional services atop the messaging platform, potentially including a Twitter-like service called BBM Channels and a desktop client. BBM already offers voice chat, and the service would be expanded to offer a video chat feature similar to Google Hangouts and Apple's FaceTime—allowing communication with desktop users. A BlackBerry spokeswoman would not comment on the report.

On August 12, BlackBerry executives announced that the company was undertaking a "strategic review" and that they were considering selling the company as one of the outcomes of that review. Operating BBM as a subsidiary would allow BBM to expand development efforts beyond the BlackBerry platform itself, but it would also make the service easier to sell off, fully spin-off as a new company, or potentially raise the value of the whole company in the event of a sale.

The timing may be a little off for BBM, however. The number of users of the service has dropped precipitously as the BlackBerry platform has lost market share in North America. BBM currently has about 60 million active users. By comparison, Kik—formed in Waterloo by former BlackBerry Messenger developers—now has over 80 million users.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: BlackBerry

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