This morning at the BlackBerry World conference in Orlando, Florida, RIM President and co-CEO Mike Lazaridis was joined by RIM's industry partners to talk about and demonstrate the company's products and solutions in action. One of those partners was a surprise guest: Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who announced Microsoft's new partnership with RIM on its BlackBerry smartphones.
Microsoft's Bing search engine will become the default search and maps provider on all new devices, said Ballmer. But it will be more than that, too. Bing will also be deeply integrated into the BlackBerry operating system, BB OS 7.
When Steve Ballmer came on stage to announce the partnership with RIM, he began by saying, "I, of course, love Windows Phone, but I won't talk about it today." Instead, he said Microsoft has decided to invest uniquely in BlackBerry platform. He noted Microsoft's partnership with RIM on online cloud services, which the company already has in place.
But the big news today was about Bing, Microsoft's search engine. Ballmer announced that Bing would become the default search provider and maps provider on all future BlackBerry phones, as well as the BlackBerry PlayBook.
"Bing will actually create real value," Ballmer explained, but not just as a search option, as it turns out. Bing will also be deeply integrated into BlackBerry experience itself, he said. It will be deeply integrated into the BlackBerry OS itself. "This goes way beyond search box," Ballmer said. "It's about real tools that help real people get things done."
Demo: Voice-Activated Search, NFC, Maps and Photo Stitching
To give the audience a better idea of what this meant, Ballmer showed a video where a group of hipster musicians used the new Bing search features on their BlackBerry smartphones. The video included demos of voice-activated search using Bing's TellMe service as well as NFC-enabled search queries. NFC, or near field communication, is a short range wireless technology that allows you to tap your phone to read smart tags linking to online content, share data between devices, or use your phone in place of a credit or debit card at the point-of-sale, among other things.
The video also showed off Bing's street-level views in Bing Maps and a panoramic photo stitching feature, which tied multiple images together into one 360 degree view. All these demos were seen only briefly in the video, a tease of what's to come.
Afterwards, the HTML-enabled Bing mobile search application was demonstrated in more detail, showing how it can be used to do local searches. With Bing, you can read online reviews and ratings for local businesses, for example, and it even lets you use other applications right within the Bing mobile interface itself. In this particular example, OpenTable was used to book a table at a local restaurant. Other Bing features let you pull up maps, news, personal bookmarks and even local deals, which are then plotted on a map.
The Bing integration will ship on phones launched this holiday season, says Microsoft. Also a part of the partnership is preferred placement for Bing apps within BlackBerry App World's app store carousel.