Can Microsoft Plus Nokia Plus BlackBerry Overcome Google and Apple?

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Today's announcement that Microsoft's Bing will power search and maps on future BlackBerry devices makes it clear that Microsoft recognizes that by itself, it will never come close to catching Google and Apple in the mobile market. But even with the help of Nokia and BlackBerry, can Microsoft succeed?

At BlackBerry World in Orlando today, Steve Ballmer announced the partnership with RIM. Computerworld reports that he said: "We're going to invest uniquely into the BlackBerry platform. Bing will become the default search provider in the browser and maps." He then added, "I've never been more excited about where our future is going."

Of course, any time Steve Ballmer so much as takes a cab ride, he says, "I've never been more excited about where our future is going." Still, this is a very big deal, and vitally important for Microsoft.

Microsoft's business and profits are solidly anchored in the past, not the future. Its most recent earnings report shows big earnings for the division that produces Office, for example, but its online division lost a whopping $726 million.

The future clearly belongs to mobile, an area where Microsoft has been failing. Windows Phone 7 has been languishing, with consumer interest waning, and with developers losing interest as well.

The Microsoft deal with Nokia was an admission by Microsoft it needs outside help, and it was clearly a very smart move. This deal with RIM looks like another good one as well, depending on what Microsoft will be paying RIM for it. Having Bing and Bing Maps be the default on RIM devices will mean a potentially sizable revenue stream. That will be in addition to its revenue stream from Windows Phone 7 that will kick in when that operating system becomes the primary one for Nokia smartphones.

But will the deals together be enough to catch Google's Android, and Apple's iOS? Not likely. At this point, and well into the foreseeable future, Nokia and RIM devices are second-tier compared to Android smartphones and tablets, and the iPhone and iPad. The BlackBerry PlayBook tablet was just released to scathing reviews, which doesn't bode well for the success of the platform.

So no, I don't believe that Microsoft will catch either Google or Apple. But even if the Nokia and RIM deals put it into a solid third place, Microsoft can consider it a success.

This story, "Can Microsoft Plus Nokia Plus BlackBerry Overcome Google and Apple?" was originally published by Computerworld.

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