Microsoft, RIM Enter Licensing Agreement Ahead of BlackBerry 10

Microsoft and RIM have signed a licensing agreement that offer the BlackBerry maker use of a technology for transferring audiovisual files between a desktop and mobile devices.

Microsoft and Research In Motion have entered into a patent-licensing agreement that extends Microsoft's Extended File Allocation Tablet—known as exFAT, which, even more fun, is the predecessor of an earlier FAT system—to select BlackBerry smartphones.

exFAT, Microsoft explained in a Sept. 18 statement, is a modern file system that facilitates the transfer of large audiovisual files between a desktop and mobile devices.

"Today's smartphones and tablet require the capacity to display richer images and data than traditional cellular phones," David Kaefer, general manager of Intellectual Property Licensing at Microsoft, said in a statement. "This agreement with RIM highlights how a modern file system ... can help directly address the specific needs of customers in the mobile industry."

The deal also offers a reminder that—oh, yes!—while Apple, Nokia, Motorola, Amazon and others announce products that will see them through the holiday shopping season, RIM continues to work on the upcoming BlackBerry 10 platform and smartphones that it won't introduce until early 2013. Speaking with London's Telegraph in August, RIM CEO Thorsten Heins narrowed that timeline a bit, promising smartphones in January.

Heins stepped into the CEO role in January and soon after began remaking the company, cutting thousands of staff positions to save money, slimming down the executive staff—he replaced RIM's two CEOs and was one of at least two COOs at the company. Heins also announced that RIM would become a leaner, meaner company, focusing intently on exactly what it does best and leaving all the rest to partners.

"I'm not going to develop games anymore, i'm not going to develop maps—there's a company out there that really can do it better than I can," Heins told eWEEK during a private interview Aug. 14. "So, I need to partner, I need to get [developers] on board, and I need to get them a great programming interface, and off we go."

Heins promised that in addition to RIM's expected enterprise features, BlackBerry 10 will also offer a very strong consumer experience—which is where exFAT may help out.

RIM's agreement with Microsoft seems one more example of the company knowing when to look beyond its Waterloo, Ontario, headquarters for help. Even when the help comes from a direct competitor.

RIM is said to be in competition with Microsoft and its largest handset partner, Nokia, for the coveted third position on the mobile podium—if such a thing exists. While analysts have reported that the wireless carriers want and will aggressively support a third mobile platform, against which they might balance the expenses of the Apple iPhone and high-end Android handsets—others say there's no longer room for a third party.

"Ninety-eight percent of [the mobile market] will be shared by Google's Android and Apple's iOS," Global Equities Research analysts wrote in a Sept. 13 research note. "There will not be any third spot left. Nokia, Microsoft and RIM will struggle in the remaining 2 percent of the market."

RIM, like Nokia, was once a dominant mobile player and is working to regain market share from Apple and Android.

Heins remarked on a Canadian radio program earlier this summer, "I am positive that when we launch BlackBerry 10, there will be huge support from our carrier partners, from our enterprise customers and that we will eemerge—specifically in the U.S. and in Canada—and a very strong player..."