Ballmer surprises with Microsoft-RIM partnership

Microsoft will invest in the BlackBerry platform from Research in Motion, becoming the default search provider in BlackBerry browsers and maps, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said during a surprise keynote appearance at BlackBerry World today.

The news shocked several live bloggers and analysts who tweeted the news from the keynote event in Orlando, Fla. Ballmer’s appeared onstage at about 9:30 a.m. ET and surprised many of the 6,000 in attendance.

“We’re going to invest uniquely into the BlackBerry platform,” Ballmer said, according to several live bloggers. “Bing will become the default search provider in the browser and maps” on BlackBerry devices …”I’ve never been more excited about where our future is going.”

A video during the keynote showed BlackBerry voice search also using Bing, according to live bloggers. Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg tweeted the news on Bing’s becoming the default search engine on the BlackBerry. Later, Gartenberg tweeted: “Wonder how much MSFT paid for that Bing deal?” Microsoft’s partnership with Nokia, reported in February, cost Microsoft more than $1 billion by comparison, according to reports.

Blogger Kevin Michaluk from Crackberry.com said Ballmer talked of expanding BlackBerry’s relationship with Bing with more integration coming this Christmas. Microsoft and RIM executives were not immediately available to offer further details.

Michaluk noted that Ballmer left the stage after about 10 minutes and commented, “Wow … that was weird and cool.”

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