BlackBerry Messenger on an iPhone or Android handset? Unthinkable! Yet that's what one online report is claiming, with the suggestion that Research In Motion wants to take its BBM messaging app to rival smart phones to beat off competition from services like WhatsApp and Kik Messenger.
Boy Genius Report published the rumour last night, citing "multiple trusted sources". It was careful to stress that RIM has not finalised any plans to take BBM to non-BlackBerry handsets, meaning it's unclear whether the app would be free, cost a one-off download fee, or be paid for by a recurring monthly subscription.
Based on its sources, BGR says RIM's thinking is this: "The company is getting very frustrated with applications like WhatsApp and Kik offering third-party experiences based on a concept RIM invented, and RIM apparently wants to own the space."
We contacted RIM's representatives here in the UK, and they cited the company's standard policy of not commenting on rumours and speculation. When its Canadian headquarters wakes up later today, it will be interesting to see if RIM moves to deny the report, though.
At first glance, releasing BBM for other smart phones sounds like commercial suicide in the making. Think of all those teenagers demanding a BlackBerry for their birthday so they can BBM their friends, for starters.
There are a number of new smart phones looking to target the same people with Qwerty keyboard designs -- HTC's ChaCha and INQ's Cloud Q for example -- but none of them have the all-important BBM. Release an Android version, and hundreds of thousands of youngsters might ditch their BlackBerry for a Google-powered device. The image above this story is one we've created, needless to say.
That said, BGR thinks RIM is aware of that, and will make sure the Android and iPhone versions of its messaging app are BBM-lite, possibly without the ability to share photos and locations.
For now, this has to be filed under the 'fascinating rumour' category. RIM is holding its BlackBerry World Conference early in May, so perhaps we'll hear more then on its plans for BBM -- and also possibly on the previous speculation that Android apps could be coming to its BlackBerry PlayBook tablet.