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Uh-Oh, RIM, Look Who's Coming

Research In Motion is coming face to face with a threat potentially bigger than any patent-infringement lawsuit. With a flurry of activity, Microsoft made it clear last week that it's determined to gain share in the mobile software market.

Microsoft released an upgrade that lets Exchange servers push E-mail to PDAs and smart phones running Windows Mobile 5.0. RIM, which produces both the BlackBerry and its operating system, requires that businesses deploy its enterprise server in order to push E-mail.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer talked up mobility at the 3GSM conference in Barcelona last week, saying the company will offer within 60 days Communicator Mobile, software that extends to Windows Mobile devices the instant messaging, voice-over-IP, and presence awareness applications in its Microsoft Office Live Communications Server, designed for business desktop users. RIM, meanwhile, says that within weeks its BlackBerry Enter-prise Server 4.1 will support instant messaging with Exchange and IBM Lotus Domino.

Microsoft also sees search as a potential advantage. It just acquired MotionBridge, a Paris provider of search technology for wireless carriers.

Technology loyalties can be difficult to change. RIM's ongoing legal battles with NTP didn't seem to hurt it last year, when it shipped 3.2 million PDAs, up 47% from the previous year, accord- ing to a Gartner report released last week. RIM has 21% of the market share for PDAs; next in line is Palm, which has 19% of that market.

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