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BBM Music helps RIM dance through its transition

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Research In Motion’s BBM Music service moved from beta to general availability on Tuesday and can be installed on a BlackBerry device through the App World. The software ties into the BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) platform by allowing friends to share music tracks through BBM Music. This is a clever use of what was once a key differentiator for BlackBerry handsets, adding new value to the old BBM service.

The free BBM Music app will first appear for BlackBerry owners in the U.S., Canada and Australia, with support in other regions coming soon. Each BBM friend can share up to 50 music tracks with other BBM Music users, making for a potentially large music collection powered by social relationships. The full music tracks can also be stored for offline listening.

Offering such a social music service makes sense for RIM. As the company transitions from the legacy BlackBerry platform to the new BBX operating system expected next year, sales of iPhones and Android handsets are eating away at RIM’s market share. For years, the BBM service was a key offering that no other platform had, but Apple (s aapl) recently introduced iMessage, which is similar: It works both as a real-time chat client and a text message application.

But iMessage has no method to share music or any other media, save photos. With BBM Music, RIM gives its users a value-add right out of the box in the form of full-length music tracks. This is a similar approach to the one that Nokia (s nok) is taking with its new Windows Phone (s msft) devices. Instead of turning on a new phone and having to download music or connect to a computer for audio files, the free Music Mix application plays preset music mixes, a Nokia exclusive for its Windows Phone handsets.

BBM Music is priced at $4.99 per month and normally includes a 30-day trial. RIM is currently extending the free trial to 60 days for a limited time. The subscription compares favorably to other streaming music services, but more importantly, it gives RIM two things: an additional income stream and more appeal to what was a one-dimensional but useful service in BBM. It’s not enough to compensate for a slow transition to a newer operating system, but it should help lessen RIM’s pain while keeping its loyal user base happy.

Image courtesy of Flickr user rjuttondfw