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BlackBerry reportedly spinning off BBM to compete with WhatsApp, Viber

BlackBerry is reportedly looking to spin off its BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service into a separate business that would compete with the likes of Viber and WhatsApp.

According to the Wall Street Journal, BBM would operate as a subsidiary known as BBM, Inc. A BlackBerry spokeswoman said she could not comment on rumour or speculation.

The report comes about two weeks after BlackBerry announced the hiring of a special committee that is exploring "strategic alternatives" that range from partnerships to a complete sale of the company.

BlackBerry has stressed that this exploration phase might not result in anything. But the team is considering "possible joint ventures, strategic partnerships or alliances, a sale of the company or other possible transactions."

According to the Journal, spinning it off will help "position BBM as a valuable asset ahead of a potential sale." A few execs have already been shuffled to the BBM team, which is looking into features beyond messaging, the paper said.

Before iMessage and other cross-platform messaging apps emerged, BBM was BlackBerry's killer app - allowing BlackBerry owners to message each other without eating into their monthly text message allotment. But the feature is no longer enough to keep people tied to BlackBerry platform, so the company announced in May that it would make BBM available to iOS and Android users sometime this summer.

Earlier this month, BlackBerry started sending out invitations for a select number of users to test out the Android version of BBM.

The move might be too little, too late. BlackBerry has struggled to compete against iOS and Android, particularly after it delayed the launch of BlackBerry 10 from 2012 to earlier this year.