RIM, Palm join forces

Two competitors in the handheld market on Tuesday decided to bury the corporate hatchet and have struck a partnership.

Waterloo, Ont.-based Research in Motion (RIM) Ltd. and PalmSource Inc., a subsidiary of Palm Inc. announced RIM’s BlackBerry Connect will be available to Palm handheld and smartphone customers. Through RIM’s BlackBerry Connect licensing program, Palm OS licensees will be offered RIM’s software solutions, providing enterprise customers with security, e-mail and corporate data connectivity. The BlackBerry Enterprise Server supports Microsoft Corp.’s Exchange server and IBM Corp.’s Lotus Domino server environments.

Warren Chaisatien, senior telecom analyst at IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto said the deal for RIM “is a very smart move.” He noted that the enterprise end-user community will benefit because RIM will handle the back-end and security for e-mail while allowing customers the flexibility of not choosing its front-end. In other words, Palm customers won’t need to buy RIM’s device.

Rumours began to circulate last year that the two companies would enter into some kind of partnership. But as Chaisatien explained, partnerships that involve prominent players in the market usually require additional time so that each company is certain that its business benefits are met.

“Before they struck this agreement, they wanted to be very careful…the delicate part of this kind of alliance is to make sure you actually achieve a win-win situation for both parties rather than cannibalizing one another at the end of the day,” he said.

For RIM, the deal represents its second alliance in three months. In March, it announced a partnership with London-based software company Symbian Ltd. making its BlackBerry e-mail system solution available on handsets using the Symbian operating system. The deal also permitted cellular subscribers to wirelessly receive and send corporate data on Symbian phones.

Also on Tuesday, PalmSource unveiled its Business Solutions Program, which it said will allow enterprise developers to submit their applications for a series of tests that once passed, will validate the application as “enterprise-ready.” The product offers developers targeted market support such as high visibility and networking opportunities with PalmSource strategic partners, wireless service providers and independent software vendors, the company said.

The companies are online at www.rim.net and www.palmsource.com.