RIM Strikes Bing Agreement with Microsoft

by Matt Klassen on May 4, 2011

Not quite the swanky party that ushered in the official rollout of the Playbook this past month, Research in Motion’s Blackberry World Conference is nonetheless chalked full of interesting revelations, minus, of course, the special Playbook punch.

But amidst the standard unveiling of the next generation of RIM’s Blackberry—which again looks distinctly like all the previous generations—upgrades to the Blackberry OS, news of both RIM’s quarterly and lifetime unit sales for the company, one interesting revelation stood apart from the rest, RIM is teaming up with Microsoft.

Seemingly the comforting shoulder to cry on or perhaps the only wallflower left at the dance, Microsoft is turning out to be exactly the kind of supportive ally that struggling mobile giants like RIM and Nokia are looking for, as both now have signed strategic agreements with the PC giant.

While Nokia’s agreement with Microsoft sees the Finnish company investing heavily in the latter’s WP7 mobile OS, the new agreement announced yesterday will see RIM employ Microsoft’s Bing search engine as the default choice on all Blackberry devices. But with Microsoft getting a key component in its mobile arsenal onto the ubiquitous Blackberry, does RIM really know what it’s getting itself into?

At first blush this deal might strike one as odd; a mobile partnership between a fading incumbent and a relatively new market upstart. While Microsoft’s WP7 is still relatively small, there’s little question that it will directly compete with RIM’s Blackberry as the mobile choice for the enterprise market. Admittedly, this deal revolves around search engine software, which pales in comparison to the enormity of the Nokia-Microsoft OS agreement, but it’s strange nonetheless.  

If nothing else, however, this deal between RIM and Microsoft should be seen as an indicator of just how competitive the mobile market currently is. With Apple and Android firmly ensconced at the top of the pile, RIM has seen interest wane from both its consumer and corporate clients, while Microsoft, for its part as a newcomer, has the unenviable task of trying to eek out whatever market share it can get its hands on.

But in a deal that will see Microsoft’s Bing search engine and map application software become an integral part of the Blackberry OS, is there a clear winner in this partnership?

While I’ve been known to overstate the severity of such dealings in the past, I’ve never been one to shy away from bold predictions, and in this case it’s certainly not a stretch to see a future where Microsoft leverages this agreement into an aggressive marketing strategy targeted towards Blackberry users.

Just bear with me while I explain: Its no secret that despite its global popularity RIM’s Blackberry brand is slipping, losing ground in the once stable enterprise sector to more consumer oriented phones like Apple or Android. Should this trend continue, we might see RIM is serious trouble in as little as five years.

Now picture this current state of the market from Microsoft’s perspective, a relatively new arrival in a cutthroat mobile scene who sees a chance to partner with a potentially fading brand. Microsoft strikes a deal to get a key component to its mobile arsenal, its search engine Bing, onto Blackberry devices, allowing users time to get used to the Microsoft software. Add to that the fact that the announcement made by Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer upstaged the rest of RIM’s content the first day and perhaps RIM execs should already be second-guessing the deal.

Sound far-fetched? Perhaps, but consider that NPD Group analyst Ross Rubin has already noted that, “Bing on BlackBerry tastes more like Windows Phone 7 than BlackBerry,” and in my mind, that’s exactly what Microsoft was hoping for.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Steve waugha May 5, 2011 at 4:06 am

Congrats for great agreement with RIM and Microsoft. Please share with us these companies vision. Thanks a lot 🙂

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