BlackBerry has just announced that its hugely popular BBM messaging service is going multi-platform: it will be released for Android and iOS as a free app this summer. BBM will support iOS hardware running iOS 6 and above; the Android version will be compatible with version 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) and above. "It's time to bring BBM to a greater audience," CEO Thorsten Heins said in announcing the expansion, "no matter what mobile device they carry."

Though it's long been considered one of BlackBerry's strongest exclusive offerings, Heins said that his company aims to deliver a "fully featured" BBM experience on rival smartphone operating systems. "We're starting with messaging and groups, but we'll bring voice, screen share, and of course, channels later on," he said.

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"Why are we doing this now? It's a statement of confidence," Heins went on. He said that BlackBerry 10's prospects are "so strong that we are confident that BBM can become an independent messaging solution." In a press release, BlackBerry notes that BBM's successful move to iOS and Android depends upon the approval of Apple and Google. Assuming things go according to plan, BBM will face no shortage of competition from WhatsApp and other messaging apps that already enjoy enormous success across mobile platforms.