RIM and Microsoft Partner Up to Bring Cloud Services to BlackBerrys, PlayBook

Research In Motion and Microsoft are partnering up to integrate the software giant's cloud offerings into BlackBerry smartphones and the upcoming PlayBook tablet PC.

The collaboration between the RIM (NASDAQ: RIMM) and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) will allow Office 365 cloud functionality to be ported on to RIM's mobile devices. Also, the BlackBerry-maker is prepping its own cloud-based services to be released later this year.

"The cloud has always been core to our business," Alec Taylor, vice president of Software, Services and Enterprise Marketing for RIM, told analysts during a March 17 presentation. "It's how we do real-time push... it's how we developed our world-class security, our back-end integration with carrier systems...as we move forward, we want to be able to integrate and support the multiple organizations and firms that are leading parts of the cloud revolution."

To expand its cloud services RIM later in 2011 will roll out BlackBerry Protect, a cloud-based solution to secure and protect smartphones and their content, BlackBerry Management Center, a cloud-based management system aimed at small businesses, and Blackberry Enterprise Service for larger companies seeking to move into the cloud.

RIM believes that enterprises that move their data center needs to an off-site host can save a significant amount of money.

BlackBerry Enterprise Service "is all about taking advantage of the opportunity to manage BlackBerrys from the cloud." Services available will be similar to those included BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express.

So, where does Microsoft fit in to the cloud expansion plan for RIM?

RIM's deal with Microsoft involves RIM providing cloud-based BlackBerry support for Office 365, the suite of collaboration services due soon from Microsoft. RIM's BlackBerry Enterprise Servers will connect "cloud to cloud" with Microsoft's data centers to host Office 365 data on users' BlackBerrys.

RIM will run the BlackBerry Office 365 servers on the BlackBerry Enterprise Servers (BES) in its own data centers. Prior to the partnership, BES for Microsoft customers ran on servers inside Microsoft data centers.

Also announced during the presentation: RIM's upcoming PlayBook tablet will be able to port and display Office 365 data from any user's BlackBerry, via a tethering service called BlackBerry Bridge.

The move to join forces on offering cloud computing services helps both partners. Microsoft has seen some of its enterprise app market share erode with the advent of Google's suite of free, Web-based productivity software, Google Apps. Google's apps compete with Mircosoft's Business Productivity Online Standard Suite (BPOS) -- to be the foundation of Office 365. So, the joint-venture helps Microsoft's cloud play in the enterprise as it defends against Google.

For RIM, the move is a defense against any further loss of dominance in the enterprise. Though BlackBerrys have long been the handset of choice for businesses, recent improvements to Apple's mobile operating system iOS and Google's Android OS have propelled iPhones and Android devices into the workplace. Nielsen Wire and comScore both recently reported that in January Android ranked No. 1 in U.S. mobile OS market share.

Also, allowing for the PlayBook to sync with Microsoft's Exchange cloud will help RIM in the hotly contested tablet PC sector. There's a slew of Android tablets due out soon that are aimed at the enterprise, so RIM is likely positioning the PlayBook as a formidable competitor.


cloud computing, Microsoft, collaboration, Blackberry, RIM