Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Microsoft Adds RIM To Its Mobile Partnerships

Microsoft is making a habit of partnering with its competitors in the smartphone world. The software Relevant Products/Services giant inked a major deal with Nokia in February, and it's an iPhone ally in search. Now Microsoft's Bing has partnered with Research In Motion.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced the alliance on stage at BlackBerry World on Tuesday morning. He outlined how the two companies can work together to help people make better decisions using Bing on BlackBerry devices. Bing Director Matt Dahlin followed with more details on the seemingly unlikely alliance.

A Changing Mobile Landscape

"Central to this collaboration, BlackBerry devices will use Bing as the preferred search provider in the browser, and Bing will be the default search and map application for new devices presented to mobile Relevant Products/Services operators, both in the United States and internationally," Dahlin said. "Also, effective today, Bing will be the preferred search and maps applications with regular, featured placement and promotion in the BlackBerry App World carousel."

Dahlin also said Bing is now shipping as the default search experience and map app on the newly released BlackBerry PlayBook. To highlight how the mobile landscape is changing, the companies plan to market and promote their joint offerings as "Making better decisions with Bing on BlackBerry."

"Devices are becoming sensors that can provide real-time access to information to help people quickly complete tasks on the go," Dahlin said. "We're going to see a convergence of search, commerce, social and location-centric services where Bing will provide the intelligence and the organizing layer in the cloud Relevant Products/Services that connects a user's intent with action, helping people be more productive."

A 'Financial Incentive'

For Bing, Dahlin said that convergence goes way beyond a "search box" and links that rank URLs to a set of web documents. It's also about finding real tools that help people get things done, he said, and expounded on how Bing combines a topical graph with a user's social graph -- as well as the geospatial graph -- to connect Relevant Products/Services the real world and the digital world.

"RIM probably got some financial incentive -- participation in mobile-ad revenue -- or payment to do the deal. It's also an effort to create a differentiated experience on BlackBerry handsets versus the iPhone and Android," said Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence.

"Bing mobile and maps are very strong and competitive products. However, RIM's smartphone share Relevant Products/Services continues to decline. And while this may result in a stronger search and maps experience on BlackBerry devices, it's unlikely by itself to arrest RIM's slide."

The PlayBook play is noteworthy considering how Microsoft is cozying up to the iPad. Last month, Microsoft launched Bing for iPad, a free download that works to deliver an experience that goes beyond traditional search. The app is optimized to take advantage of the iPad's touchscreen and lets users browse news, movies, Bing home-page images, local business Relevant Products/Services listings, and other content with a finger swipe.

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