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BlackBerry to offer BBM to Windows Phone and Nokia X platforms

A man walks by a Blackberry sign at the Blackberry campus in Waterloo, September 23, 2013. REUTERS/Mark Blinch
A man walks by a Blackberry sign at the Blackberry campus in Waterloo, September 23, 2013. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

(Reuters) - BlackBerry Ltd will make its BBM messaging tool available to Microsoft Corp's Windows Phone and the upcoming Nokia X platforms in the coming months in a move to widen the user base, the smartphone maker said on Monday.

The announcement, coupled with a report that auto maker Ford Motor Co plans to base its next-generation Sync system on BlackBerry's QNX operating system and no longer use Microsoft's Windows platform, helped send shares of BlackBerry up 8 percent in midday trading.

Bloomberg said using QNX would be cheaper than licensing Microsoft technology and would improve the flexibility and speed of the next Sync system. The report cited sources briefed on the matter who requested anonymity because the decision was not public.

BlackBerry and Ford declined to comment on the report.

Shares of BlackBerry rose 8.4 percent to $9.91 on Nasdaq following the news on Monday. Its Toronto-listed shares rose 7.7 percent to C$10.95.

Reaching a deal with Ford would be a coup for BlackBerry, which is trying to reinvent itself as more of a software and services company after its smartphones have lost market share to Apple Inc's iPhone and a slew of devices powered by Google Inc's market-dominating Android platform.

Still, its BBM offering remains popular. Waterloo, Ontario-based BlackBerry opened the service to the Android and iOS platforms late last year, and the number of active users has increased to more than 80 million.

BBM, or BlackBerry Messaging, offers collaboration tools such as BBM Groups, BBM Voice and BBM Channels and competes with services such as WhatsApp, which Facebook said last week it would buy for $19 billion.

BBM will be available as a free download from the Windows Phone Store this summer, while BBM for Nokia X will be available from the Nokia Store when the Nokia X platform launches, BlackBerry said in a statement on Monday.

BBM was a pioneering mobile-messaging service, but its user base has failed to keep pace with those of WhatsApp and other rivals, in part because BlackBerry had long refused to open the program to users on other platforms.

WhatsApp, with a user base of about 450 million, has grown rapidly. Its service works with iOS, Android and devices powered by the Windows and BlackBerry platforms.

(Reporting by Varun Aggarwal in Bangalore and Euan Rocha in Toronto; Editing by Supriya Kurane, Jeffrey Hodgson and Lisa Von Ahn)

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