...and the rivalry’s gone
They say necessity is the mother of invention and Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer certainly seems to have taken that maxim to heart. Faced with the threat of irrelevance in the booming mobile device market, Microsoft is making a habit of cozying up to mobile companies it may previously have viewed as competitors.
Everyone knows about Microsoft's deal with Nokia, which we still believe will ultimately become exclusive, but with Apple and Google trampling all other mobile platforms right now, there are plenty of other potential allies out there.
The company that potentially has the most to lose from the direction the mobile device market is headed in is RIM, the maker of the BlackBerry, which was the smartphone of choice for many before the iPhone arrived. Like Nokia it's still selling plenty of phones, but its market share is also in decline and it can presumably see the need to act before things get messy.
This took the form of a new allianc with Microsoft, which BlackBerry has traditionally competed with in the mobile enterprise market. Specifically this deal concerns Bing rather than Windows, and we don't expect RIM to abandon its own platform anytime soon. Rather, RIM wants to add to the services it offers its smartphone customers, and thinks Bing will help.
So Bing will now be the default search provider for BlackBerry devices, as well as the default navigation app. This will be marketed as "Making better decisions with Bing on BlackBerry." There were no formal press releases at time of writing, but reports from the event talk about plans to bring augmented reality to the BlackBerry platform and integration with BBM.
This is an intriguing move by both companies. RIM certainly needs to improve the app experience on its platform in the light of the developer explosion on iOS and Android, and Microsoft is the main alternative to Google on things like search and maps. For Microsoft this gives Bing another boost in the battle to take search market share from Google.
But the two companies continue to operate competitive mobile platforms, so any boost to RIM's fortunes from this deal will surely be viewed with ambiguity by Microsoft. It's inevitable that such a large and diverse company as Microsoft will sometimes be both partnering and competing with certain companies, but it looks like the head of Bing owes the head of WP7 a drink.