Is Microsoft Getting Ready to Buy Research in Motion?

A new agreement between Microsoft and Research in Motion (RIM) BlackBerry smartphone is likely to revive rumors that the Redmond, Washington-based software giant will purchase the BlackBerry maker. However, while the deal is significant for RIM, it’s just one of many similar deals being signed by Microsoft in recent months.

The agreement is tied to licensing and will make it easier for users of RIM-built devices, like the PlayBook tablet computer and BlackBerry smartphone, to transfer large files between these gadgets and their laptop or desktop PCs.

Specifically, the agreement is related to Microsoft’s Extended File Allocation Table file system. General manager of the company’s intellectual property licensing division, David Kaefar, says the deal will help RIM build devices that “display richer images and data than traditional cellular phones.”

For RIM, this is a big deal. It gives the firm something of a leg up on its main competitor, Apple, which has successfully drawn consumers away from RIM devices over the past two years. The stock market reflected the deal’s importance, with RIM shares increasing 2.5 per cent to $7.44. They later settled at $7.40. Overall, however, it must be considered a very successful day for a stock that has declined 30 per cent in value over the last 90 days.

But it would be going a bit too far to suggest that the agreement means Microsoft is mulling over the purchase of RIM. After all, it has signed very similar licensing deals with Panasonic, Canon, and Sony in recent months. Obviously, none of those firms are about to be bought up by Microsoft.

Nevertheless, the news will give RIM employees — at least, those who have survived a bloodbath of layoffs this past year — some hope for the future.

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