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Microsoft, Research In Motion Sign Cloud E-Mail Pact

According to a Bloomberg article, Microsoft plans to eliminate the e-mail hosting cost for some BlackBerry customers, and may also be on the brink of a cloud storage deal with BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIM)

Although details are limited, last Wednesday's Bloomberg story cites information from RIM senior executives indicating that a cloud computing deal had been struck between RIM and Microsoft that affects RIM's BlackBerry mobile devices and its PlayBook tablet device, due to hit stores by the end of April. As part of the deal, according to the article, Microsoft will manage "some RIM customer information."

Microsoft announced its own news about BlackBerry e-mail cloud support on Wednesday. It now offers free BlackBerry e-mail cloud connections to new customers of Microsoft's Exchange Online service. This offer applies to new users of Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite, as well as to future customers of the Microsoft Office 365 service, which is rumored to start in July.

The deal doesn't wipe out wireless service provider costs. And Microsoft seems to have applied the same policy to some other device makers as well.

"So, with the cost of your regular wireless bill, connecting your phone to BPOS or Office 365 will be free -- whether you have a Windows Phone, BlackBerry, iPhone, Nokia E Series or any other phone with Exchange ActiveSync," Microsoft's announcement stated.

Existing Exchange Online customers may not be left out of the deal. Microsoft's announcement indicated that "for existing customers, we expect to be able to provide more information later this month on how you can take advantage of this change."

A spokesperson for Microsoft denied that the deal described in the Bloomberg story was the same as Microsoft's announcement on Wednesday. When asked if Microsoft and RIM had signed a deal to use Microsoft's Windows Azure cloud storage for RIM device users, the spokesperson replied, "No. This is not part of the deal announced [by Microsoft] on Wednesday."

A spokesperson for RIM clarified that the agreement with Microsoft is "about RIM providing a BlackBerry enterprise service for Office 365." RIM announced last Thursday that this new service, which will be hosted by RIM, will be rolled out as a beta around the middle of this year. RIM's announcement incidentally notes that Microsoft dropped the price of its hosted BlackBerry enterprise service from $10 per user per month to $0 per user per month.

A BlackBerry service plan from a wireless service provider is required in either case. However, now the cloud link-up cost is $0 with Microsoft's Exchange Online offering, and it will cost $0 for the cloud link-up for RIM's future offering called "BlackBerry enterprise service for Office 365."

Meanwhile, Microsoft on Monday noted a problem with duplicate messages showing up for some customers using "RIM BlackBerry devices connecting to an Exchange 2010 SP1 RU3 environment," according to a blog post. The blog recommended that IT pros should hold off on deploying RU3 until Microsoft completes its investigation.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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