RIM this week made a number of announcements of consumer services for BlackBerry devices, including partnerships with MySpace and Tivo. Research In Motion is typically considered an enterprise device developer, but it continues to push its consumer strategy.
It also announced a deal that will feature rival Microsoft's Live Search bar on the BlackBerry browser.
"BlackBerry has developed a lot of its reputation on the messaging side, but we want to focus on lifestyle and content and music and multimedia," said Jim Balsillie, co-CEO of RIM, during the keynote presentation of the CTIA conference in San Francisco Thursday.
Smartphones, which have better processing power than standard handsets, continue to make up a growing portion of mobile phones, he noted. "The real question is what do you do with these smart appliances," he said.
Some of the new services RIM introduced are aimed at offering phone users ideas for using the power of their smartphones.
After introducing a Facebook application for BlackBerry devices last year, RIM is now also offering one for MySpace. The application pushes notifications of messages and updates to BlackBerry users, who can read and send messages, comments and photos from their phones.
Balsillie also announced a music service for BlackBerry users in partnership with Slacker, a music streaming site. Key to the application is a feature that can cache thousands of songs on users' BlackBerry devices, he said. "That should last you a couple days," he said.
RIM is also working on support for Windows Media so users can synch desktop photos, videos and music to their BlackBerry devices, he said.
RIM also hopes that BlackBerry users can more easily see live music through a new relationship with Ticketmaster that lets people buy tickets on their phones and receive alerts about upcoming concerts.
The new deal with Tivo will let BlackBerry users remotely manage their Tivo boxes and also let users watch programs on their phones.
Balsillie also announced that RIM is expanding its relationship with Microsoft so that, by the end of this year, BlackBerry users will be able to choose Live Search as their search engine of choice in the BlackBerry browser. Users will also be able to use Live Search within BlackBerry maps. The partnership builds on one the companies formed earlier this year for Live services like Messenger and Hotmail on BlackBerry phones.
Balsillie didn't indicate that RIM is abandoning its enterprise roots but described the new services as appealing to the personal lives of people who may already use BlackBerry devices to manage their e-mail and other work applications. One way that RIM hopes to let users bridge the two worlds is through shared calendars. The "unite" feature lets BlackBerry users converge their personal and work calendars into a single view.
As evidence of the demand for content on mobile devices, Balsillie said that the BlackBerry is the number one device accessing the mobile MLB.com website, and that more people accessed the NFL Web site from mobile phones than from PCs during the Super Bowl.
RIM isn't alone among traditionally business-focused phone makers now marketing more consumer offerings. It met with considerable success with its Pearl phone, its first designed for the mass market. Microsoft has also recently been pushing the idea that Windows Mobile phones can appeal to people while they're at work as well as in their personal lives.
The consumer service announcements from RIM come a day after the company launched its first flip phone. Flip phones, which make up 70 percent of all phones sold in the US, have traditionally had the reputation of being low-end phones, Balsillie said. "It's been fundamentally untapped in the smartphone space," he said. The new BlackBerry flip phone aptly balances the flip form factor with high-end features like a nice screen and a camera, he said.
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