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BlackBerry gets Windows Live, Office Communications Server

Adam Turner

BlackBerry users will retain easy access to Windows Live Messenger and Hotmail when Microsoft cuts external Hotmail access in June.

The enhanced integration, expected to be available "at the beginning this [Northern] summer", will allow BlackBerry users to access Microsoft's free Hotmail and instant messaging services by simply entering their Windows Live email address and password once.

New features will employ BlackBerry "push" technology for automatic message delivery of Hotmail email along with message synchronisation, so the users' online account is up-to-date with actions taken on their BlackBerry smartphone. Customers can also choose to receive their Windows Live Hotmail messages, along with messages from other email accounts, within a single inbox on their BlackBerry smartphone.

Windows Live Messenger for BlackBerry will allow customers to send instant messages and join group chats, see the presence of colleagues, customise status messages, save conversations and send and receive files.

BlackBerry's 7000 and 8000 models, as well as the newly announced BlackBerry Bold, will be the first to get the Windows Live services.

New phones will be shipped with the services, and users will be able to download them onto existing phones. Carriers still have the ability to disable access to the service.

The launch of the new BlackBerry service coincides with Microsoft's plans to disable external Hotmail access at the end of June for

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other users. After originally considering charging for external access, Microsoft now plans to cut WebDAV access to Hotmail accounts completely and switch to its proprietary DeltaSync format. This means third party webmail accounts and desktop mail clients including Outlook Express and Windows Mail (the email software included in Vista) will no longer be access to hotmail.com accounts. Hotmail Plus subscribers have POP3 access to their Hotmail accounts.

Apart from the deal with BlackBerry, access to free Hotmail accounts will only be available via the Windows Live Hotmail website, Windows Live Messenger instant messaging application or via Microsoft Office 2003 of 2007 using the Microsoft Office Outlook Connector plugin.

The news comes as WebMessenger debuts software at the Wireless Enterprise Summit this week to extend Microsoft's unified communications platform to the BlackBerry. WebMessenger Mobile for Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS) is the first technology to deliver OCS functionality to the BlackBerry platform, offering presence, chat and call control.