Nokia and Windows Phone users have been asking for it — and earlier today Nokia and BlackBerry confirmed it: free messaging app BBM is coming to Nokia devices, both the Lumia devices based on Microsoft’s Windows Phone and the new Nokia X handsets built on a forked version of Android announced earlier today. The apps will go live “in the coming months” and no later than this summer, BlackBerry says.
The app will go live first in the Nokia Store. It’s not clear whether it will be extended to other Windows Phone devices although this is the trajectory that other apps have followed.
The move is significant for BlackBerry, as well as Nokia and Microsoft, and comes amidst a wave of attention on messaging apps that are picking up hundreds of millions of users, with one of the biggest of all — WhatsApp — selling to Facebook last week for $19 billion.
What’s interesting is that BlackBerry seems to see the development as a boost for its enterprise business. “BBM continues to grow in popularity as millions of people use our mobile platform for chatting and connecting with friends or colleagues, and we are very excited that we will soon welcome Windows Phone and Nokia X users to the BBM community,” said John Sims, President, Global Enterprise Solutions at BlackBerry.
However, in reality apps like BBM have taken on a life of their own among consumers.
For Nokia and Microsoft, the app gives the companies another key app to continue to fill out its portfolio and prove to existing and potentially new users that devices are just as good and useful as their bigger and more established competitors, namely devices built on Android and Apple’s iPhones — the gold standards for apps and usually the go-to platforms for developers.
And as Stephen Elop pointed out earlier today, Nokia also specifically sees this app as another way to target developing markets, where Nokia has been focusing on winning over new smartphone users with lower-cost devices to counterbalance the fact that many mature markets are well-saturated now with dedicated Android and iPhone users. “We are dedicated to the next billion,” he said today of the strategy, which is being bolstered also by the Nokia X forked Android handsets.
Chat apps like BBM (and WhatsApp) have become important ways for people to stay in touch. The reason for this is because chat apps like BBM are more functional than SMS — allowing for features like having multiple chats, group messaging, voice calls and stickers — and in many countries end up being easier to buy in smaller increments than full voice and texting plans.
For BlackBerry, this is an obvious move to help scale up its BBM business, continuing to provide a platform for communication for both ex-BlackBerry device users who have migrated to other platforms, as well as for new users. There were no updates on the total number of users of BBM today, except to say that “millions of people” are currently using the service.