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The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Spreading the Messenger: BlackBerry to expand reach of BBM to Windows, Nokia X

BARCELONA, Spain - BlackBerry Ltd (TSX:BB) says it will make its BBM text messaging system available to two more types of smartphones, those running the Windows operating system and the Nokia X platform.

The company said Monday at a trade conference that BBM will be a free download from the Windows Phone Store this summer and the version for Nokia X will be available when the platform launches.

BBM has been considered one of the reasons for BlackBerry's success in wooing customers to earlier versions of its smartphones.

Meanwhile, the Globe and Mail reports that BlackBerry intends to bring back a popular set of command keys it had abandoned with the launch of a new family of smartphones this past year.

The newspaper quotes sources familiar with the company as saying chief executive John Chen will announce Tuesday at the mobile industry conference in Barcelona that the company will restore its trademark "belt" of five function keys that sat between the screen and keyboard.

This includes a trackpad and other keys that allowed users to easily navigate between different applications. The belt will appear later this year on phones powered by the BlackBerry 10 operating system.

The Waterloo, Ont.-based company was a pioneer in the smartphone industry but has been replaced as market leader by devices using the Android operating system and the iPhone.

The company has already made BlackBerry Messenger available to Apple iPhones and Android devices — although only after some delays.

BlackBerry has been expanding the reach of BBM as a way to maintain loyal client organizations that can choose from a range of devices.

The company has also introduced new features for BBM that could make the service a potential revenue stream through mobile advertising.

Two weeks ago, BlackBerry confirmed the departure of Andrew Bocking, who headed BlackBerry Messenger and said responsibility for the BBM team had been assigned to John Sims, president of Global Enterprise Solutions

"BBM continues to grow in popularity as millions of people use our mobile platform for chatting and connecting with friends or colleagues, and we are very excited that we will soon welcome Windows Phone and Nokia X users to the BBM community," Sims said Monday in a statement the Barcelona trade show.

On the Toronto Stock Exchange, shares in Blackberry closed up 70 cents, or 6.88 per cent, at $10.87 on Monday after having gone as high as $11.18 earlier in the day.

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