Blackberry Messenger launch thwarted by app leak

BBM on Blackberry handsets Until now the BBM app had been limited to Blackberry's own devices

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Blackberry has temporarily halted the rollout of its free Messenger service for Android and Apple devices after the software was leaked.

A version of the Android app was posted online on Friday - a day ahead of its scheduled launch - and was subsequently shared via the Crackberry forum.

Blackberry had already begun publishing the iPhone edition in some nations when it announced that the unofficial app was causing it unspecified "issues".

It paused the rollout as a result.

"Our teams continue to work around the clock to bring BBM to Android and iPhone, but [will release it] only when it's ready and we know it will live up to your expectations," Blackberry social media manager Luke Reimer wrote in a blog.

For the time being, iPhone owners in Australia, India, Malaysia and other countries where the software was briefly made available can continue using the service. However, the company said it had disabled the problematic Android app.

What does BBM offer?

Blackberry Messenger began life as a simple instant messaging tool offering owners of the firm's handsets a free alternative to SMS texts.

Over the years the company has added functions including sending pictures, audio messages and other files as well as making voice and video calls, all over the internet.

In addition it offers a Groups facility, which allows users to share photos, lists and calendar appointments with trusted contacts.

A recent addition is Channels - a feature allowing brands and celebrities to send news and status updates to users who want to follow them through the app.

It is the latest bad news for the company, which announced last week that it was cutting 4,500 jobs and warned it would post as much as a $995m (£621m) loss when it reported its second-quarter earnings this week.

The company offered no further comment when asked by the BBC what issues had been caused by the app leak.

Software strategy

Blackberry has struggled of late to keep pace with Apple and products running Google's Android operating system. Globally it now also lags behind Microsoft's Windows Phone ecosystem in terms of sales.

Despite this, its Blackberry Messenger product - known as BBM - has stood out as a major success.

The software offers an alternative to SMS messages - which cost money on some subscription plans - as well as other voice and screen-sharing facilities. It has proven to be especially popular with younger phone owners.

The app rollout is intended to address competition from Whatsapp, Viber and Skype which offer similar facilities and work across different mobile platforms.

Some analysts had warned that by allowing its software to run on rival handsets Blackberry might make its own handsets appear less attractive to the public.

However, that has become a moot point following the firm's announcement on Friday that it was going to exit the consumer market and focus instead on selling services to business customers.

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