Beleaguered mobile device maker BlackBerry (BBRY) certainly is considering its options. Fresh off disclosing it had commissioned a special committee to explore everything and anything from an equity buyout to partnerships, the company now is mulling spinning off its popular BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service into a quasi-independent subsidiary, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
Sources cited in the report said the new company would be called BBM Inc. BlackBerry already has moved some key personnel to its BBM team and is working on additions to the messaging technology such as video chatting, the report said.
BBM is a long-standing staple of the BlackBerry lineup. BlackBerry claims more than 60 million monthly active BBM customers, with more than 51 million people using BBM an average of 90 minutes per day. According to the company, BBM customers collectively send and receive more than 10 billion messages each day with about half of those messages read within 20 seconds of being received.
In May, BlackBerry chief Thorsten Heins revealed plans to release the BBM messaging service for Google (GOOG) Android and Apple (AAPL) iOS platforms this summer as a free app for users. And, Heins pledged to deliver BBM Channels, the company’s new social media platform housed within BBM that enables users to create a “channel” for others to follow. BBM will be offered as a free download, available initially for iOS and Android as a text-only app until a voice feature, video chatting and BBM Channels are added later.
"It's time to bring BBM to a greater audience—no matter what mobile device they carry," Heins said at the time. "We're starting with messaging and groups, but we'll bring voice, screen share, and of course, Channels [social media] later on," he said.
Should BlackBerry successfully spinoff BBM, it’s unclear how the company would decouple its value from its remaining assets should the vendor continue to assess buyout or partnership options.
"We have announced our plans to offer this trusted mobile messaging service to iPhone and Android users sometime this summer," a BlackBerry spokeswoman said in a statement. "We have made no further announcements."