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Facebook made easy for BlackBerry

Research In Motion has integrated the popular social-networking site into its smartphones, with T-Mobile USA the first carrier to offer the software.

SAN FRANCISCO--BlackBerry's users, often referred to as "CrackBerry" addicts, will now have easy access to the popular social-networking site Facebook.

The two companies, which have been working in secret for the past six months, announced Wednesday that they have integrated the Facebook Web application with Research In Motion's Blackerry smartphones.

Mike Lazaridis, founder of RIM, joined Dustin Moskovitz, co-founder of Facebook, to formally unveil and demonstrate Facebook for BlackBerry Smartphones at the CTIA Wireless IT & Entertainment show here.

T-Mobile USA will be the first mobile operator to provide the software application to subscribers, the companies said. The application, which will come preloaded onto all T-Mobile BlackBerry smartphones, will be free.

"By integrating Blackberry's push technology with Facebook's networking technology provides a real-time social-networking experience away from the desktop," Lazaridis said.

Lazaridis demonstrated how easily pictures could be sent to a Facebook page from a BlackBerry Curve. Without even opening the application, a BlackBerry user can take a picture and instead of e-mailing or sending the photo by MMS to a friend, he can go directly to his Facebook mobile page, add captions and even tag the photo. Then with the click of a single button, the picture is uploaded to the Facebook page where anyone can see it.

Friends who are also using the integrated BlackBerry/Facebook application can be notified immediately that a new picture has been added. These alerts can even be customized with unique tones so that BlackBerry users know who has just messaged them. The application is also integrated into BlackBerry's address book, so that BlackBerry users can invite contacts to become Facebook "friends."

It makes sense for Facebook to work with device makers to integrate its application into more phones. As a new smartphone user, I've noticed that it can be a real pain in the neck to access Web applications I access all the time on my desktop.

It's also very telling that the young Facebook, which was started by a couple of college kids, is partnering with a company that got its start catering to the stodgy world of Wall Street bankers, government middle managers, and corporate lawyers. Even seeing the founders of the company on stage together was a symbolic look at where the future of the Internet and mobile industry are going. Moskovitz, who quipped when he came on stage that he was drinking Red Bull and eating Hot Pockets four years ago in a dorm room at Harvard, looked like he could easily be Lazaridis' son or dare I say even grandson.

Indeed, Facebook is not just for students anymore. A year after the company started letting anyone join the network, Moskovitz said that more than half of the nearly 50 million registered users of Facebook are not in college or high school. When he asked the packed hall in San Francisco's Moscone Center how many people had a Facebook profile, nearly every hand in the room went up.

"It's really exciting to see the business community using this communications platform," he said. "Opening the application to more users and developers is really the cornerstone of our growth."

But RIM is also trying to expand its market with new products geared toward more casual users. The BlackBerry Pearl has been dubbed a perfect phone for "soccer moms" who need to check e-mail on the go. And the BlackBerry Curve, which is loaded with multimedia functionality to rival Motorola's Q, the Samsung Blackjack, and other "lifestyle" smartphones, is also geared more to the mass market than the hardcore business user. While the Curve is no Apple iPhone, it certainly shows where the market is headed. The Facebook application is another indication that BlackBerry is trying to hit professionals who want to meld their work lives with their professional lives.