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5/12/2008
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Microsoft's Hotmail, Live Messenger Head To BlackBerry

BlackBerrys aren't just for business messaging anymore, and Microsoft isn't depending only on Windows Mobile for its mobile strategy.

Microsoft and Research In Motion announced Monday that consumer e-mail and instant messaging services from Microsoft would be available on BlackBerry mobile devices later this summer. The move demonstrates both that BlackBerrys aren't just for business messaging anymore and that Microsoft isn't depending only on Windows Mobile for its mobile strategy.

Products in the BlackBerry 7000 and 8000 lines, as well as the new BlackBerry Bold, also announced today, will be the first to get the Windows Live services, which include both Windows Live Hotmail and Windows Live Messenger. New phones will be shipped with the services, and users will be able to download them onto existing phones.

BlackBerry has become synonymous with mobile business e-mail, which Microsoft saw as an opportunity. "Most business professionals also have a personal life, and this gives great access to consumer services," Phil Holden, a Microsoft director for mobile services, said in an interview. Earlier this spring, Microsoft announced a deal to get voice-activated search on BlackBerrys with Microsoft Live Search for BlackBerry.

This is the third major distribution deal Microsoft has done for Hotmail and Messenger. Of course, it started by offering them on Windows Mobile phones, and then last year added a deal with Nokia to offer Hotmail and Messenger on Nokia Series 60 devices. Microsoft's now working on getting those services onto Nokia Series 40 devices as well.

"The market would expect us to put our services on the Windows Mobile platform, but we're serious about other platforms as well," Holden said. "There is not one mobile phone platform. There's a bigger fragmentation of suppliers out there than on the PC."

Despite the deal with RIM, people won't get Windows Live services without the approval of their carriers. Microsoft has about 140 carrier relationships around the world regarding Windows Live on mobile devices, including recent deals with Telefonica in Latin America and T-Mobile in Europe. Holden says to expect a number of additional deals in coming months. Last year, it became clear that AT&T had disabled Windows Live services on Palm Treo smartphones.

While Microsoft's early Live mobile services include a limited subset of Microsoft's larger array of Live offerings, including search, social networking, instant messaging, e-mail, and mobile content, the company hopes to expand its breadth. The company's already said that it's aiming its Silverlight rich Web app technology and Live Mesh synchronization service at mobile devices.

"When you think about our Web services, all of those will very much have a strong and stronger mobile component for them moving forward," Holden says. "It's really about extending the PC access to the mobile phone in ways that are very similar."

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