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Nokia to integrate RIM software

A pact between the two companies completes a licensing hat trick for Research In Motion, which also announced deals with Palm and Handspring this week.

Cell phone maker Nokia will license some of the software behind Research In Motion's BlackBerry devices, the companies said Friday.

The deal will let Nokia use and distribute certain BlackBerry technology, including wireless e-mail, globally. The pact completes a licensing hat trick for RIM this week; the company also inked deals with Palm and Handspring to license RIM's keyboard patents.

Financial details behind the Nokia deal were not released. Nokia also did not say when the new technology would show up in its products.

BlackBerrys are popular in the corporate world because they let people send and receive e-mail via a wireless device. Nokia representative Damian Stathonikos pointed to this as a reason behind the deal. It's "likely" that Nokia's Business Applications Business Unit will shepherd the RIM software into Nokia handsets, he said. The unit was created earlier this year to sell Nokia phones and services to corporations.

Nokia representative Keith Nowak said the company plans to gradually introduce RIM software into many of its phones, with the likeliest early candidates being Nokia's more costly and technically sophisticated phones meant for the corporate set.

"Something that's designed for pure voice would unlikely have RIM client (software) in it," Nowak said.

RIM has been trying to reach out to a broader global market, recently announcing new devices that can work on next-generation networks in Europe, Asia and North America. The deal with Nokia, the world's largest cell phone maker, should help that goal as well, said RIM spokeswoman Tilly Quanjer.

"We like our square little black box," Quanjer said. "But we always strive to have different kinds of form factors."

RIM's thumb board, a miniature keyboard for handheld devices, is a key part of the licensing deal for Nokia, said Joe Laszlo, a wireless analyst with Jupiter Research. Nokia is beginning to build thumb boards into phones, including the just-released Nokia 6800, he said. But RIM's software "does thumb boards better."

"It's easier and cheaper to license the software than to do it yourself and go through several evolutionary steps," Laszlo said.

Merrill Lynch analyst Tom Astle estimated in a research note that the number of BlackBerry-enabled phones shipped next year could surpass 10 million.

"This deal increases the market reach for BlackBerry services considerably, from the couple of hundred thousand BlackBerry-capable hardware units per year being sold today directly by RIM to many millions being sold by Nokia," Astle wrote.

News.com's Richard Shim contributed to this report.