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Microsoft, RIM ink patent deal on storage tech

A new deal gives Research In Motion access to Microsoft's file system technology for flash storage drives.

Microsoft and Research In Motion today said they have signed a patent licensing agreement that gives RIM access to Microsoft file system technology.

That technology is called Extended File Allocation Table -- or "exFAT" for short -- and Microsoft says it optimizes files for use on flash storage, which is overwhelmingly the storage of choice on smartphones and tablets.

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

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

RIM is the latest licensee of exFAT. Others include SanDisk, Sanyo, Sharp, Sony, Canon, and Tuxera.

This is the most recent patent-related deal between the two companies in the past year or so. Last June, a consortium comprising Apple, EMC, Ericsson, Microsoft, Sony and RIM pooled together to purchase the patent portfolio of Nortel Networks for $4.5 billion.

Nonetheless, the two companies are fierce competitors in the world of smartphones, where Microsoft's Windows Phone platform goes up against RIM's BlackBerry. In an interview with CNET in July, RIM CEO Thorsten Heins called Microsoft's phone strategy "confusing," but gave the company kudos for its experience making software.

RIM has not made any mention of how it plans to use exFAT on its devices. The company is currently working to finish its BlackBerry 10 operating system, which has been delayed into the first quarter of 2013.