Blackberry cloud services for Office 365: Not until 2012

The RIM-hosted Blackberry cloud service for Office 365 users is going to be available in January 2012, with an open beta kicking off in October 2011.

It's been known for a while that there would be a gap between the time that Microsoft launched Office 365 and when Blackberry cloud service would be available for Office 365 users.

Until last week, the exact length of that gap wasn't officially confirmed. But now word is out: General availability of Blackberry cloud services for Office 365 is expected to be in January, 2012. BlackBerry is currently seeking participants for an open beta program for the beta, which will commence later in October.

BlackBerry Business Cloud Services will provide mobile access to email, calendaring and organizer data with Exchange Online. The RIM-hosted version of the service is taking the place of the Microsoft-hosted Blackberry Enterprise Service for Office 365 Standard users, Microsoft officials announced last year. (Microsoft will continue offering a Microsoft-hosted version of BES for Office 365 Dedicated users only.)

RIM and Microsoft announced last year that the price of the hosted BlackBery service will be cut to zero. The pair also said at the time the new Office 365 Blackberry service would be launching later in calendar 2011. I've asked Microsoft officials to confirm the 2012 date is a worldwide availability one, but have yet to hear back.

Microsoft's interim advice: “Until general availability of the BlackBerry Business Cloud Services, BlackBerry smartphone users can use the BlackBerry Internet Service connection to obtain email over the air, and do a wired sync for calendar and contacts. Customers with on-premises Exchange and BES can use coexistence with Office 365 to enable BlackBerry device users on-premises," a spokesperson said when I asked.

In other related news, RIM took the wraps off a new BlackBerry Client for SharePoint on October 3.  And on the Office 365 front, Microsoft officials said on October 3 that Microsoft will be making a service update to SharePoint Online before the end of 2011. That service update will allow users access to Business Connectivity Services (BCS) to connect to data sources via Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) Web Services endpoints. ("BCS lets customers use and search data from other systems as if it lives in SharePoint—in both read and write modes," according to Microsoft's explanation.)

October 3 is the kickoff of Microsoft's SharePoint Conference 2011 in Anaheim. The Softies said that as of today, more than 125 million people in 66,000 organizations have SharePoint, and over 62 million SharePoint 2010 licenses have been sold. Microsoft officials said 80 percent of the Fortune 500 run SharePoint in some capacity. Microsoft is not providing a SharePoint 15 test build or sharing more than the vaguest information about its coming next-generation SharePoint release during the show, officials said.

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