Palm bags first operator for BlackBerry service

Company announces partnership with SingTel which will allow Treo 650 owners to connect to BlackBerry services.

SINGAPORE--SingTel is the first telco in the world to team up with Palm and Research in Motion (RIM) to offer the BlackBerry Connect software on Treo 650 smartphones.

Vicky Brady, SingTel's vice president for consumer marketing, said as mobile e-mail becomes an integral part of business, BlackBerry Connect will appeal to the company's loyal Palm Treo customer base. The software allows non-RIM devices to access BlackBerry push e-mail services.

The partnership follows an announcement last year by Palm and RIM to offer the BlackBerry Connect tool on Treo 650 devices. The software will be integrated into Palm's Versamail e-mail client, allowing users to access corporate e-mail, synchronize calendar items and view file attachments. In addition, IT administrators can centrally manage mobile devices, such as deactivating them remotely whenever security on the device is compromised.

Paul Blinkhorn, vice president of Palm Asia-Pacific, told reporters that the agreement with SingTel to offer BlackBerry Connect on Treo 650 devices is "exclusive" in Singapore, and will span over "a number of years". This means the other two mobile operators in the island-state, StarHub and MobileOne, will not be able to offer similar services, for now, he said.

Blinkhorn declined to disclose details on similar agreements with operators in other parts of the world.

SingTel said BlackBerry Connect is currently available to the company's new and existing Treo 650 customers. Corporate clients will need to fork out S$299 (US$185) for the Treo 650 from SingTel, and S$61.95 (US$38) per month if they subscribe to the BlackBerry Enterprise Solution unlimited local data usage plan.

Sandra Ng, IDC's Asia-Pacific vice president for communications, peripherals and services research, noted that mobile e-mail is often the first step toward enterprise mobility for most businesses.

"In the last 9 to 12 months, organizations have extended their infrastructure into the mobile e-mail and Wi-Fi space," she said, adding that about 10 percent of businesses in the region currently have mobile e-mail.

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