BlackBerry To Offer Free BBM Service To Customers Who’ve Already Fled To iOS, Android

Back when I got my first work BlackBerry, I was all, “Hey, cool — I can email on this thing and message people. Great.” And that’s basically where BlackBerry has been stuck over the last few years, as iPhones and Android phones have erupted in popularity and gained devoted followings. Now, the company figures if you don’t want to actually own a BlackBerry, maybe you’d still want to use its BBM free messaging service.

Customers who may’ve fled the floundering BlackBerry years ago might not be tempted to come back, even with new devices set to debut soon as the company attempts to save itself from the fiery chasm from whence it came. At least this way, BlackBerry can keep its existing customers happy by allowing them to communicate with their friends for free.

Soon enough, iOS and Android users will be able to get the BlackBerry Messenger app, or BBM, free on their devices, the company announced yesterday.

Those rivals have carved out a large part of BlackBerry’s (formerly Research In Motion) market share, notes Reuters, but Chief Executive Thorsten Heins sounds optimistic about where the company stands, reports Reuters.

“You know it hasn’t been that easy and you also know there is still a lot of work to do, but man, we have reached solid ground with this company,” Heins told delegates at the BlackBerry Live conference in Orlando, Florida.

Former co-CEO Jim Balsillie might be smarting a bit at this BBM news, as he wanted to offer the service on rival phones as part of a major shift in strategy when he was at the company, but his suggestion was overruled.

This latest strategy might be too little, too late, say analysts, but Heins is all about it.

“This is such a great experience, it is just too good to keep it only to ourselves. It’s time to bring BBM to a greater audience,” he said.

BlackBerry opens up messaging, unveils mid-tier smartphone [Reuters]