By Richard Martin
Mashing up the world’s premier smartphone for mobile professionals with the most popular social networking site on the Web, Research in Motion Wednesday launched a version of Facebook customized for BlackBerry devices. Called Facebook for BlackBerry, the software application will use the device’s push e-mail capabilities to allow instant mobile access to Facebook’s social-networking features.
Facebook users will be able to receive messages and updates automatically, invite friends to join Facebook and accept friends’ requests, take and upload photos along with captions and tags, view friends’ status, and read and compose messages even while offline. New messages written in offline mode will be queued for posting when the device re-connects to a network.
T-Mobile will be the first U.S. carrier to offer the feature on BlackBerrys. The application will also be available for downloading from the Facebook Web site.
The partnership between the BlackBerry, seen as a status symbol for the executive class, and the decidedly nonbusinesslike culture of Facebook might seem unlikely — Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg’s appearance at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco last week already is famous for his slacker footwear (a scuffed pair of open-toed Adidas sandals) and his rejection of the idea that the young company needs a “grown-up” CEO — but it reflects the increasingly blurred line between consumer apps and enterprise devices and features.
“Facebook is one of the fastest growing Web destinations among BlackBerry smartphone users and it has become an important element in the evolving fabric of personal communications,” said Mike Lazaridis, RIM president and co-CEO, in a statement. “Facebook and RIM share a vision for enhanced mobile communications and social networking based on open, standards-based platforms.”
Sharing the stage with Lazaridis at the CTIA Wireless conference in San Francisco, Facebook co-founder Dustin Muskovitz said that mobility is the next frontier in social networking.
Indeed, RIM has made a focused push to gain more individual-user business in the last year, releasing consumer-oriented devices like the BlackBerry Pearl and expanding its lifestyle offerings, such as games and multimedia.
The BlackBerry announcement comes as Facebook reportedly weighs investment offers from tech companies Microsoft and Google (which already partners on advertising with rival social-networking site MySpace). The companies are vying to take a 5% to 10% stake that would value Facebook at around $15 billion. Zuckerberg stoked those rumors last week at Web 2.0 when he told the conference co-chair that the financing deal would be wrapped up soon.
Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. acquired MySpace two years ago for $580 million.