Microsoft: Friend to all struggling smartphone players; Mobile plan set

Parnterships with RIM and Nokia mean we're about to enter an interesting juncture with Microsoft's mobile strategy: The software giant will have distribution and partnerships in place to make a run. Will consumers buy in?

Microsoft has sealed a deal with Research in Motion to integrate Bing search and services into BlackBerry devices. Couple the RIM deal with a Nokia partnership and we're about to enter an interesting juncture with Microsoft's mobile strategy: In a year or so, the software giant will have its distribution and partnerships in place.

Ballmer, Bing, BlackBerry

Then the fun begins: Consumers will either gravitate to Microsoft's mobile properties---Windows Phone 7 and Bing services---or they won't. In any case, there will be no excuses.

Let's do a quick inventory:

Nokia CEO Elop and Microsoft CEO Ballmer

Add it up and Microsoft is escorting both RIM and Nokia through what is likely to be a rough 2011. RIM has fill-in products before its QNX superphones appear in 2012---that's the reality no matter what co-CEO Jim Balsillie says---and Nokia will hit Windows Phone 7 volume in 2012. In the meantime, Nokia will sell you a few Symbian smartphones.

This time next year, Microsoft will have OS and services distribution on both the consumer and enterprise fronts. Even if you assume RIM and Nokia nearly unravel, Microsoft's mobile efforts will have some serious smartphone distribution.

At that point, Microsoft will either shut up technology's chattering class, which remains skeptical about the software giant's mobile potential, or not. Tech buyers will be both the judge and jury. The certainty will be nice to have:

Ballmer said Tuesday:

“We’re super committed to innovate with Bing and BlackBerry. This goes way beyond a search box. It’s about giving real people real tools to help them gets things done.”

Now all consumers have to do is accept those tools.