RIM chats up BlackBerry Messenger 6

The latest version of the BBM instant-messaging service allows the easy sharing of apps, and lets developers integrate in-app chatting into their BlackBerry software

Research In Motion has released BlackBerry Messenger 6, the first version of the instant-messaging service that can be integrated into BlackBerry apps to let users chat to each other.

BBM6

Research In Motion has released BlackBerry Messenger 6, which includes integration with apps such as Foursquare (above). Image credit: RIM

That functionality, which also includes the ability for users to recommend apps to one another, could be used in productivity apps or mobile gaming, the company said on Thursday. RIM first invited developers to start preparing their apps for the launch of BlackBerry Messenger 6 (BBM 6) in September, when it unveiled the BlackBerry Messenger Social Platform.

"BBM 6 marks the beginning of an even greater social experience for BlackBerry smartphone users," Alistair Mitchell, chief of platform and integrated services for the service, said in a statement.

"It also represents an incredible opportunity for developers to [take advantage of] the viral nature of the BBM service, and we have already begun working with various developer partners who will be bringing their BBM-connected apps to BlackBerry App World this week," he added.

Apart from being able to chat with one another, BlackBerry owners can use the integrated service to tell friends they are using a certain app. They can also post which apps they are using to their BBM profile, and their contacts can click on and instantly download that app when they visit the profile.

App-sharing is becoming a must-have feature of mobile application stores. The latest version of the Android Market, which came out on Wednesday, has a prominent icon on each app page inviting the user to share a link to it with others via Bluetooth, text message or email, or using other services such as Twitter.

Foursquare, The Huffington Post and Wikitude are among the companies that have provided BBM-connected apps for the launch day. Others will join them in BlackBerry App World "over the coming months", RIM said.

According to a blog post by BBM product manager Theban Ganesh, the instant-messaging service has "over 45 million users who send over one billion messages per month".

"We know that community is hungry for more apps that integrate with BBM," Ganesh added.

Unexpectedly, given the BlackBerry's history among corporate buyers, BBM has proven to be a big hit with teens. The service helped consumer sales of the smartphones overtake business sales a few years ago. No other phone maker has managed to launch a proprietary instant-messaging service with anywhere near as much success.

Later this year, though, Apple will release iOS 5 and its iMessage app. Like BBM, iMessage will be an encrypted service — a trait that has given RIM a headache in countries such as India, which at the start of the year pressured the company into giving law enforcement agencies access to BBM data.


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