RIM, Microsoft ink cloud computing deal for BlackBerry subscribers

Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) is partnering with Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) to make a new RIM-hosted BlackBerry-enterprise service available for Microsoft's Office 365 cloud computing suite, a move RIM said will save corporate customers money, enhance security and speed up the rollout of new BlackBerry services. 

The partnership is still being tested but is expected to go live within the next few months. Under the plan, companies will have the option to move management of their BlackBerry Enterprise Servers offsite to remote data centers, which will connect via the cloud to RIM's servers. 

Jim Tobin, RIM's senior vice president of software and business services, told Bloomberg he expects around a quarter of RIM's large corporate customers will put their data into the cloud by year-end, and half will shift their data to the cloud in 2012. RIM reports its fiscal fourth-quarter results March 24, but counted more than 55 million BlackBerry subscribers at the end of its third quarter on Nov. 27. 

"It's a more efficient model for everyone," Tobin told Bloomberg. "As the smartphone starts to handle more of the work effort versus a desktop, and now you add the tablet, that's the time" to move toward cloud computing. The move is also expected to save customers money based on the fact that enterprises will not have to purchase and maintain BlackBerry Enterprise Servers.

Interestingly, Tobin told Reuters RIM has no plans to support other devices with its enterprise servers. He said the company plans to continue to service only BlackBerry phones and not iPhones or Android phones.

More and more mobile platform companies have embraced cloud-based services as the wave of the future. Cloud technology is at the heart of Hewlett-Packard's webOS platform, Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android operating system makes extensive use of cloud services, and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has been building a massive data center in North Carolina widely believed to be a launching point for cloud computing technology for Apple's iOS platform. 

Tobin also talked up RIM's forthcoming tablet, the PlayBook, which still does not have a firm release date. The company is expected to release a Wi-Fi-only version of the gadget later this month or early next month, followed later this year by different models with cellular connectivity. Tobin told Bloomberg that interest from enterprises in the tablet is "very high."

For more:
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this Dow Jones Newswires article (sub. req.)
- see this Reuters article

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Correction, March 18, 2011: This articile originally misstated the nature of RIM's partnership with Microsoft. RIM is partnering wth Microsoft to make a new RIM-hosted BlackBerry-enterprise service available for Microsoft's Office 365 suite, not to use Office 365 to store BlackBerry customers' personal data.