BBM: BlackBerry keeps Windows Phone users hanging on, launches beta test

Considering BBM is an integral part of BlackBerry’s plan to turn itself around, the company seems to be taking its time to sort out a version for Windows Phone.

The popular messaging app landed on iOS and Android in the latter half of last year, with BlackBerry boss John Chen saying in March that he expected a Windows Phone version to launch in the April-to-June time frame.

With the sound of chirping crickets growing ever louder, BlackBerry on Thursday announced that BBM for Windows Phone is finally here! Sort of. Y’see, you’ll have to apply to use it. The beta version, that is.

Jeff Gadway, head of product and brand marketing at BBM, said in a post on the BlackBerry blog Thursday that in the coming weeks (at least we’re talking weeks now, not months), the company will be “ready to welcome millions of Windows Phone users to the growing BBM community.”

But first, he said, his team needs to move things along with the development of its beta version. You can sign up for an invitation to try it out here, though if you’re selected for the program, Gadway wants users to give feedback to help knock the app into shape.

“If you’re not ready to report bugs, respond to surveys and provide feedback, better to wait just a bit longer for the full release,” he said in the post.

The first release, which sports a native Windows Phone UI, will let users do the basic stuff – chat with one or multiple contacts, and share photos, voice notes, contacts, and location. Developers are said to be working quickly to add additional features such as stickers, BBM Voice, and BBM Channels as part of future updates.

Monetization plans

As Windows Phone’s share of the mobile market pushes ahead of BlackBerry’s in several locations around the world, BlackBerry needs to have its messaging app available on all major platforms as soon as possible, especially as it forms part of Chen’s strategy to get the company back in the black in the next two years.

Monetization plans for the app include ads via sponsored channels to give brands a chance to connect directly with BBM users, as well as sticker sales and a person-to-person money transfer service, currently undergoing trials in Indonesia.

A couple of weeks ago Chen said BBM now has 160 million registrations, up from a reported 113 million in March.