Rather than competing with Facebook or Twitter, BlackBerry is more interested in letting potential customers know that they can buy a BlackBerry device and also communicate with their friends on iOS and Android hardware, Milanesi said. "Now if I can talk to everybody, BlackBerry might seem more attractive to me, because BBM is free," she said. "It makes sense."
However, in a mini-debate with Milanesi on Twitter, analyst Bob Egan of The Sepharim Group, asked: "Do you really think opening up another version of text messaging is an incentive for people to buy a [BB] device? Really?"
Later, Egan said it might be one reason to buy a BlackBerry phone, but not the only reason.
Gold laid out several reasons for why multi-platform BBM is significant. "First, BBM is far more secure that other messaging platforms, although it remains to be seen how secure it is on other platforms than BlackBerry," he said.
BlackBerry can also generate revenue for every message sent, Gold added, and will gain insight on how those on other platforms use their devices to send messages.
"BBM is moving to be more than just another messenger," Gold said. "It's now a platform with APIs and an ecosystem, adding apps on top of the BBM engine. In that respect, opening to other platforms allows the whole ecosystem to grow, and a bigger ecosystem means potentially bigger revenue generation for third parties and BlackBerry."
In a related announcement Tuesday, BlackBerry also unveiled BlackBerry Enterprise Instant Messaging 3.0, a free update that allows users of BlackBerry 10 smartphones to securely communicate over Microsoft Lync, Microsoft Office Communication Service or IBM Lotus Sametime.
The Enterprise IM 3.0 works with BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10.1, an update for back-office BES servers also announced today.
Also at BlackBerry Live, singer Alicia Keys announced a BlackBerry global women's initiative, which includes a scholarship program to inspire more women to enter careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Full, four-year scholarships will go to outstanding women with a particular interest or aptitude in mobile computing, said Keys, who was named as BlackBerry's global creative director in January.
BlackBerry will also mentor each of the scholarship winners.
Keys ticked off some well-known stats about the dearth of women in IT, noting that only 25% of U.S. IT jobs are held by women, even though more women graduate from college than men. Also, more than 55% of BlackBerry customers are women, she said.
"Women are underrepresented in the fields of science and technology and we feel strongly that it's time to drive a change," she said.
The deadline for applying for scholarships for the fall term is June 26. More information is available at www.blackberry.com/scholars.
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