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RIM invites BlackBerry users into MS Office cloud beta

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BlackBerry users wanting to get into Microsoft's cloudy Office 365 only have a few months to wait, and the properly impatient can sign up for the beta this month.

The Office 365 service will be hosted by RIM and offered free to users; access will be granted to all comers next January, but an open beta launches later this month for those who want to taste the RIM cloud early, as Mary Jo Foley explains.

The announcement follows yesterday's launch of SharePoint for BlackBerry, which enables BlackBerry users to download MS Office documents from a SharePoint repository so they can be edited using the RIM-owned Documents To Go package.

But it falls short of the properly cloudy Office 365, or "BlackBerry Business Cloud Services for Microsoft Office 365" as RIM's offering is rigidly termed. That will offer mobile access to e-mail, calendaring and so forth via RIM's servers, as opposed to the bodge job that currently requires a cable connection for calendar and contacts even if e-mail synchronises properly.

RIM still has serious business credentials, and tying into Office 365 is obviously essential to continue that especially given the company's apparent inability to push far into the consumer market. It's also going to get more important once Windows Phone starts finding its way into offices, which surely can't be far off. ®

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