The spinoff report comes as BlackBerry continues to explore "strategic alternatives" believed to include an LBO (perhaps with Prem Watsa's help) or a sale to another tech company. The WSJ observes the move indicates "BlackBerry is trying to position BBM as a valuable asset ahead of a potential sale."
BBM (60M users), long available only on BlackBerry's hardware, is set to arrive on iOS and Android. It'll face stiff competition on those platforms from the likes of WhatsApp (250M+ users), Facebook Messenger, Kik, Line, and Viber. A leaked video suggests Samsung will be an Android launch partner.