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RIM announces 'lifestyle' apps for BlackBerry

Research in Motion, maker of the popular BlackBerry smartphone, is looking to attract new customers with applications that extend usefulness of devices beyond e-mail.

Research in Motion is loading BlackBerry devices with what its co-CEO Jim Balsillie calls 'lifestyle' applications. Tom Krazit/CNET News

SAN FRANCISCO--In what looks like an attempt to compete toe-to-toe with Apple's iPhone, Research in Motion announced a slew of new integrated application deals on Thursday to make its e-mail-optimized smartphone more appealing to consumers.

E-mail was the killer application that catapulted RIM's BlackBerry device into near cult status in the corporate world. And now the company is trying to win the hearts and minds of consumers, not only with new phones--like the flip-style Pearl 8220, which was announced on Wednesday, or the BlackBerry Bold, which recently launched in the North American market--but it's also loading BlackBerry devices with what its co-CEO Jim Balsillie called "lifestyle" applications.

On Thursday, here at the CTIA fall 2008 trade show, the company made a series of announcements about different applications it's customized for BlackBerry devices.

This is not the first time that RIM has announced special relationships with specific application developers. At last year's CTIA Fall trade show, it announced it had integrated the Facebook application into its platform. Balsillie said during a keynote address here Thursday that the Facebook for RIM application, which launched about a year ago, has been downloaded 2.5 million times.

"It's been the fastest take up of any application that we've ever had," he said.

But now RIM has upped the ante adding a slew of new customized applications for its smartphones including: a deal with Microsoft to integrate search, MySpace to provide quick access to another social-networking site, TiVo to offer remote scheduling and browsing to a DVR, Ticketmaster to buy concert and event tickets on-the-go, and Slacker to offer a music library for BlackBerry users.

Here's a closer look at the announcements.

Microsoft mobile search
RIM has integrated the Microsoft Live Search engine into the BlackBerry Browser making Microsoft the default search engine for BlackBerry devices. The mobile search platform will let BlackBerry users get contextual, location-based search results or look for nearby points of interest, such as restaurants or movie theaters, from inside BlackBerry Maps.

Availability: Microsoft Live Search for BlackBerry smartphones is expected to be available later this year with support for multiple languages.

Separately, Google announced earlier this week that it's launched Google Mobile App for BlackBerry, a free download that offers faster search and a slew of Google services for BlackBerry devices. The new mobile application gives Blackberry users Google Apps support, a search history, software update alerts, and easier access to Google programs like Gmail, Maps, and News.

RIM is also working with TiVo to allow BlackBerry users to search recordings on their TiVos and schedule future recordings while on-the-go. In the future, Balsillie said that BlackBerry users will even be able to view recorded shows on their BlackBerrys.

Availability: The first software application from RIM and TiVo is expected to be available later this year.

First it was Facebook, and now it's MySpace. RIM will now offer customized access to the popular social-networking site, including instant, push-based messaging to BlackBerry and MySpace users, real-time status and mood updates, camera integration, and optimized photo management. Also as part of this collaboration between the two companies, RIM has created a BlackBerry community page on MySpace for users to access BlackBerry smartphone, content, videos, games, ringtones, skins and other features.

Availability: MySpace for BlackBerry is expected to be available globally in October.

RIM has also teamed up with Ticketmaster making its BlackBerry phones the "Official Smartphone of Ticketmaster." What this means is that BlackBerry users will be able to browse, search, and purchase tickets to live concerts and events from their phones. BlackBerry users will also be able to browse music and sample cuts. And they'll be able to sign up for e-mail alerts to get information about upcoming music and sporting events.

Availability: The deal with Ticketmaster is exclusive to the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. And the application will be available by the end of the year.

Slacker music
BlackBerry isn't likely the first smartphone most people think of when they think music, but RIM is looking to change that. RIM has partnered with the streaming Internet radio music site called Slacker, which allows people to create and stream customized music channels, to offer a new music experience for BlackBerry users. The music can be streamed or users can store up to 1,000 tracks on their phones so that they can listen to music even when they're not connected to the network. Balsillie said that the device automatically syncs to the music site when users enter a Wi-Fi hot spot.

Availability: The Slacker-optimized application will be available sometime in October.