RIM launches $150-million development fund

ORLANDO — Research in Motion [Nasdaq: RIMM] has launched a $150 million investment fund to spur development of mobile applications and services for its BlackBerry brand.

The fund was announced this week at RIM’s annual BlackBerry users conference, Wireless Enterprise Symposium (WES). RIM also announced it will bring two Microsoft [MSFT] Live services, Hotmail and Live Messenger, to the BlackBerry.

The Waterloo, Ont.-based company is putting up some of the money, along with Thomson Reuters, the New York-based business information and news company, RBC Venture Partners, the investment arm of Royal Bank of Canada, JLA Ventures, a Canadian venture fund that specializes in technology companies, and several private Canadian investors. RBC Venture Partners and JLA will co-manage the fund.

The fund will target a wide range of applications: mobile commerce, including payments, retailing, advertising and banking; an array of vertical and horizontal enterprise applications, communications, social networking and location-based services such as navigation and mapping, media/entertainment, personal productivity programs and lifestyle applications.

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In a sense, the fund is intended to accelerate what’s already happening, since plenty of vendors, from start-ups to carriers and big software companies, are betting big on the mobilization of the enterprise. At WES this year, there are 140 companies in the companion exhibit hall, all RIM partners and nearly all of them software vendors. This BlackBerry ecosystem is a mix of personal user applications, mobile-designed business applications, middleware for linking with back-end applications and data, BlackBerry system and device management, carriers organizing business services around the BlackBerry platform, and systems integrators, including Alcatel-Lucent and IBM.

RIM also announced it will bring two online Microsoft applications to the BlackBerry: Windows Live Hotmail and Windows Live Messenger. From the BlackBerry’s browser, users will be able to get automatic message delivery from, and synchronization with, their Live Hotmail account, with messages displayed in a dedicated onscreen box, for example. With Live Messenger, BlackBerry users will be able to send instant messages and join group chats, see the presence of colleagues and friends, set and customize status messages, and send and receive pictures and files.

Both Windows Live services will be available this summer.

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