If the popularity contest is going to be fought between the Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) iPhone and RIM’s (NSDQ: RIMM) BlackBerry devices, then Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) wants a piece of the action. Microsoft said today its Windows Live services will soon be available for BlackBerry, allowing people to have better access to Hotmail and Messenger services on their phones. Already, most BlackBerry users have access to their Hotmail accounts and to Windows Live Messenger, however, the announcement includes better integration, such as the ability to view HTML graphics in emails and the ability to see the presence of friends and colleagues in Messenger or their address cards. Windows Live is popular around the world, with more than 430 million users, and the new services are expected to be ready this summer in multiple languages.
It’s interesting that the debate for the most popular smartphone has been centered on Apple and RIM when Microsoft is also a viable contender. RIM estimates that it has about 14 million users; Apple expects to sell about 10 million iPhones this year, and Microsoft expects to sell 20 million Windows Mobile licenses this year (a number which doesn’t include how many handsets it currently has in the market). With the help of others, RIM announced today that it has launched a $150 million fund to support smartphone applications, while Apple has a $100 million iFund for the iPhone. The BlackBerry Partners Fund will not restrict the development of mobile applications and services to any single mobile platform, meaning it could benefit Windows Mobile, as well, but it would be interesting to see if Microsoft has any plans of its own. It will also be interesting to see what services Microsoft will launch for the iPhone once applications become available this summer.