Research In Motion will use Microsoft's Bing search engine and maps as default options on its new BlackBerry devices, a victory for the software giant as it eyes the booming mobile phone market.
RIM's move, coupled with its close partnership with Adobe Systems, sketches out a strategy of cooperation in a mobile market now dominated by Apple and Google.
RIM is eager to set its PlayBook tablet apart from Apple's iPad, and has long stressed its ability to handle Adobe's Flash software, a prevalent format for online video and other content. The iPad does not support Flash.
Bing, already packed on the PlayBook, will be deeply integrated at the BlackBerry operating system level on RIM's new smartphones, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said on Tuesday in a surprise appearance on stage at the BlackBerry World conference in Orlando, Florida.
Microsoft is suddenly gaining some considerable traction in mobile as the industry seeks to counter Google's growing dominance, said CCS Insight analyst Geoff Blaber.
He said RIM has shrewdly gained a foothold in mapping and search without investing directly.
The mobile wars will bring strange bedfellows together, IDC analyst Al Hilwa said.
Google is the search engine of choice for two-thirds of U.S. queries, according to research firm comScore, while Bing has 13.9 percent. Google's Android operating system is used by multiple handset makers, while Microsoft has signed a software deal with Nokia, the largest phone maker by volume.
RIM used the event to show off the integrated email and calendar software, as well as Android app support, it will add to the PlayBook in coming months.
CONTROL OF CONTENT
RIM's co-chief Mike Lazaridis, in a joint interview with Adobe head Shantanu Narayen, said publishers had long worked with Adobe and were reluctant to give up control, a complaint often thrown at Apple.
The publishers want to be in control of their destiny, their business, their content, he said. I don't think they are willing to be hijacked in the way the music industry was before, Lazaridis told a small group of reporters after his keynote speech.
During the speech Lazaridis said RIM would give out more than 6,000 PlayBook tablet computers to participants at the Orlando conference, and that the device would soon feature the popular Angry Birds game.
(Editing by Frank McGurty)