Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced this morning at Research in Motion’s BlackBerry World conference in Florida that, beginning today, RIM would be working to integrate Microsoft Bing search and mapping services into the BlackBerry OS. And Bing won’t exist merely as apps users can call up when they want: instead, the services will be integrated at the OS level and available to a wide variety of applications.
Ballmer also indicated Microsoft intends to invest “uniquely” in BlackBerry services. The companies have yet to make a formal announcement, and financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed.
RIM and Microsoft have a history on partnering to link up their services: BlackBerry’s enterprise-oriented services run on Microsoft operating systems, and BLackBerry’s communications services—much loved by executives and enterprise types—need to integrate with Microsoft solutions like Outlook and Exchange. However, RIM and Microsoft are also competitors in the smartphone market, with RIM under attack from the likes of Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS, and Microsoft struggling to gain a foothold in the smartphone marketplace with its own Windows Phone platform—which will be the exclusive focus of Nokia going forward.
One interesting aspect of a Bing mapping deal for RIM: Nokia’s Ovi mapping service will be the backbone of location-based services for the Windows Phone ecosystem, raising the possibility that RIM’s deal with Microsoft might, through a curious turn of events, see Nokia mapping technology eventually work its way into BlackBerry devices.
The companies have not outlined a timetable for when Bing services wil be integrated into BlackBerry OS and available to consumers. RIM just launched BlackBerry OS 7 on new BlackBerry Bold smartphones this week.