Research In Motion Ltd (RIM) is teaming up with Microsoft Corp to handle the growing amount of data its customers are using on mobile devices and said it plans to release its BlackBerry PlayBook tablet “very soon.”
The Microsoft partnership is designed to make it easier for customers to use what’s known as cloud computing, or servers offsite that store data and can be accessed over the Internet, said Jim Tobin, an RIM senior vice president. Microsoft will take over management of some RIM customer information under the deal.
TO THE CLOUD
“It’s a more efficient model for everyone,” Tobin said in an interview on Wednesday in Toronto. “As the smartphone starts to handle more of the work effort versus a desktop, and now you add the tablet, that’s the time” to move away from storing information on computer hard drives and local servers.
Tobin said he sees about a quarter of RIM’s large corporate customers shifting data into the cloud by the end of this year, with half making the shift by next year. Data stored in the cloud currently represents about 5 percent of the US$1.5 trillion in corporate information technology spending last year, according to industry data supplied by IDC and Gartner Inc.
He declined to give any estimate of how much money the shift will save RIM or its customers.
RIM is looking for ways to enhance the PlayBook’s appeal as it prepares to challenge Apple Inc in the tablet market. Apple, which sold 7.33 million iPads last quarter, has said more than 65 percent of Fortune 100 companies are testing or deploying the iPad, including Procter & Gamble Co, Lowe’s Cos and Hyatt Hotels Corp.
RIM has shown the PlayBook to a “significant” portion of Fortune 100 companies and interest in the device is “very high,” Tobin said.
RIM plans to introduce the PlayBook this month or early next month, co-chief executive officer Jim Balsillie said last month. Tobin declined to elaborate other than saying it will be very soon. Apple’s iPad went on sale in April last year and the company has since sold more than 15 million of the devices.
‘DEAD ON ARRIVAL’
With the PlayBook yet to appear in stores, consumers have been buying the iPad and tablets like Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc’s Xoom, which went on sale last month. Both have screens that measure about 10 inches (25cm), compared with the PlayBook’s smaller 7-inch screen. Balsillie and Apple CEO Steve Jobs exchanged barbs late last year after Jobs said smaller tablets are “dead on arrival” because they are too small to compete with the iPad.
“One other tablet is making some inroads and lots of noise,” Tobin said. “The PlayBook is the only other relevant game for enterprises right now and for enterprises that have embraced BlackBerry, it’s a natural game to jump on that bandwagon really quickly.”