Updated with more info about the BlackBerry Bold
Microsoft and Research in Motion are partnering to bring Windows Live services to RIM’s BlackBerry smartphone. In addition to coming right after RIM’s announcement of the new BlackBerry Bold (implying, I guess, that the old BlackBerry was meek; it’s pictured to the left), this news seems to be RIM’s latest move to keep the BlackBerry competitive with Apple’s iPhone.
Basically, the deal means that BlackBerry customers will be able to user Windows Live Hotmail and Windows Live Messenger to send emails and instant messages, respectively, on their smartphones. Users will just need to enter their Windows Live email addresses and passwords once, and can then access their accounts with just the push of a button.
Microsoft says the services will be available on BlackBerrys sometime this summer, and will support multiple languages.
In pretty much any context, this would seem like a smart move, allowing both companies to offer more services (in RIM’s case) on more platforms (in Microsoft’s case). But RIM’s addition of htese applications is particularly worth noting since RIM is rumored to be worried about the iPhone’s business-friendly functionality, including the iPhone’s compatibility with Microsoft Exchange, as announced in March. That compatibility will include features like “push” email, which is also a big feature in the Windows Live/BlackBerry partnership.
RIM also just announced a $150 million fund for developers creating applications for the BlackBerry, following on the heels of Kleiner Perkins’ $100 million iFund for the iPhone. Rick Segal, a partner at JLA Ventures (an investor in the BlackBerry fund), told us that talks about the fund took place over the past year and that the fund’s emphasis will be on maximizing profits rather than boosting BlackBerry’s developer ecosystem.
Update: Because I focused on the Windows Live announcement, my initial post gave the BlackBerry Bold short shrift. Despite my kneejerk skepticism due to the grandiose name, it looks like the Bold will indeed be a step forward, if not exactly an iPhone-killer. The BlackBerry traditionally been marketed and used as a business device, but with the iPhone’s popularity, RIM seems to have realized it needs to offer consumer features too. The most important additions are greater multimedia support and connection to the faster 3G network. The first addition helps bring the BlackBerry up-to-speed with the iPhone, while the later actually moves the RIM device ahead, since there are plenty of rumors but no official launch date for the 3G iPhone.