A first release of BBM for Windows Phone is now available for download, BlackBerry announced July 31. The version, which follows a limited Beta release, is compatible with devices running Windows Phone 8 and 8.1.
A longtime favorite of BlackBerry users, the messaging app includes all the expected features—the ability to chat with up to 50 contacts at once, and to share photo albums, voice notes, location information, contacts and more within a chat. Plus, BlackBerry has promised to quickly add new features, such as "stickers, BBM Voice, BBM Channels" and Glympse location sharing, in the months ahead, Jeff Gadway, BlackBerry's head of brand marketing, said in a blog post.
But the app's most notable feature may be its appearance, which is very in line with the Windows Phone aesthetic.
"When BBM first came to market, there was thought to be a value in making it look the same across all platforms," John Sims, BlackBerry's head of enterprise, said at a BlackBerry Security Summit in New York July 29.
"The thinking is different," Sims, among the new leadership team now at BlackBerry, continued. "You can expect to see that manifest in iOS and Android BBM apps as well."
Gadway, in a video, further explained, "We've really tried to pick up on the clean, modern, really responsive design and user experience that you find across the whole Windows platform."
BBM for Windows Phone features three screens that users can swipe between from right to left: Chats, Feeds and Contacts. Chats shows all previous conversations and is where new Chats can be initiated; on the Contacts page, contacts are visible and can be searched for; and in Feeds, users can see what's going on with their Contacts and update their own statuses and photos.
BBM's Next Phase
Last summer, there were rumors that BlackBerry, desperate for new income, was considering spinning off BBM and possibly selling it. But the company's new leadership, put in place through the fall and winter, is putting the app at the center of its solution.
CEO John Chen, at the Security Summit—after a knowing joke about the price at which he might consider parting with BMM—said BlackBerry "is going to integrate it" into how businesses run.
In June, BlackBerry launched BBM Protected, the first solution in what will be a growing eBBM Suite of products.
BBM Protected uses two-factor authentication to enable users, even in regulated industries, to securely chat, and without the need to switch apps or even devices based on whether they're contacting a colleague, a customer or their mother.
To initiate a chat, users exchange a password or phrase that generates an encrypted key that secures their conversation.
At the Summit, BlackBerry's Sims explained that BlackBerry can't access that key, or the conversation.
"If there were a Lawful Access request [made by the U.S. government], it would go to the enterprise, not us," said Sims. "We really have no way of accessing or deciphering those messages."
BBM for Windows Phone can be downloaded for free from the Windows Phone store.