Palm, RIM Team Up for BlackBerry on Treo

Palm and Research In Motion said they are working together to bring BlackBerry Connect to Palm’s Treo 650 smartphone – so where does that leave the recent news that Palm will support Windows Mobile on a forthcoming Treo?

Palm said that through RIM’s BlackBerry Connect licensing scheme, it will enable its Treo 650 and future Palm OS based Treo smartphones with secure, push-based wireless email via BlackBerry Enterprise Server. The phone with BlackBerry support is expected early next year.

Yet it was only late September when Palm made its shock announcement that it is to support Microsoft’s Windows Mobile 5.0 operating system on another forthcoming Treo smartphone. The news was somewhat surprising as it is a blow to rival mobile operating system player PalmSource, which used to be part of Palm and is still pushing its Palm OS.

On the announcement of support for Windows Mobile back in September, Microsoft’s Bill Gates said: "In our view, every professional will have a phone that connects up to their email. They’ll have a phone that works super well with Exchange and Outlook and all of Microsoft Office."

The ActiveSync features of Windows Mobile 5.0 allow phone-Outlook synchronization and, when used with Exchange 2003 Service Pack 2, push email along the same lines of systems offered by Research in Motion and Intellisync.

But it seems despite the choice of Windows Mobile and its ActiveSync features for one of its Treo phones, Palm is still opting for RIM’s BlackBerry Connect and Palm OS on others. Yesterday a Palm spokesperson would say only that the support for RIM’s BlackBerry Connect was simply about giving customers more choice. It’s clear that Palm wants to be at least a little operating system and mobile middleware agnostic.

Announcing its support for Windows Mobile in September, Palm’s CEO Ed Colligan said that the company was still committed to selling phones running Palm OS, though he conceded that, "Sure there’ll be some cannibalization [of Palm OS sales]… There will be people who will want to move to this [Windows Mobile] platform. No question about that. But I think it expands the market too. I think it gets more people seeing Treos who want to use this type of functionality."

Palm said the Treo 650 running Palm OS with BlackBerry support will be available early next year. The 3G-enabled Treo running Windows Mobile with ActiveSync support will also be available early next year. It’s possible, of course, that users will still have the option of using the BlackBerry functionality on the Windows Mobile Treo, because RIM is working on a Windows Mobile client.

According to Palm and RIM, the combination of the Blackberry support on the Treo will mean not only support for RIM’s push-based email using BlackBerry Connect with Palm’s VersaMail email client, but also support for Microsoft Exchange and IBM Lotus Domino; wireless calendar synchronization; remote address lookup of corporate email directory; email-attachment viewing; triple DES encryption and IT policy enforcement and commands.

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