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HP and RIM Get Cozy in the Enterprise

What's going on with HP and BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIM)? The exact details aren't slated for release until next month, but the two companies are expected to announce a significant partnership, InternetNews.com has learned.

An e-mail from HP previewing the announcement stated: "In early May, HP and RIM will announce a new partnership that will help mobile enterprise customers increase service levels, improve productivity and reduce operations costs."

The e-mail went on to say: "With the number of mobile employees rapidly growing, enterprises are looking to ensure productivity and reduce risks. The new joint offerings will span the HP portfolio to enhance and support enterprise mobility."

While no other details were forthcoming, IDC analyst Stephen Drake said it makes sense that HP (NYSE: HPQ) and RIM (NASDAQ: RIMM) would formalize ties related to mobile management.

"IBM and RIM have a strong partnership in managed mobility where IBM manages over 130,000 BlackBerry devices already. HP brings support to mobile device management and a services portfolio that's already firmly entrenched in the Fortune 100," said Drake, vice president for mobility and telecom at IDC.

But unlike IBM (NYSE: IBM), HP offers its own line Windows Mobile-based devices that compete with RIM's BlackBerry, meaning HP is essentially partnering with a competitor.

"Is this also a statement from HP that maybe our front-end devices aren't doing so well?" analyst Jack Gold, of J. Gold Associates, told InternetNews.com. "HP could be saying 'let's go where the money is' because there are so many BlackBerrys out there running BES (BlackBerry Enterprise Servers) and they're not going away."

An HP spokesperson said no other details would be forthcoming in advance of the formal announcement.

IDC's Drake notes while HP already has official ties to RIM via EDS, the giant IT services firm it acquired last year for $13.9 billion. "EDS has been managing BlackBerrys for some time, arguably more so than HP has been doing," he said.

Drake also says HP's services business is run "fairly independently" and probably sees a great opportunity to formalize an agreement with RIM while leveraging the EDS connection.

"RIM has some big Fortune 100 customers with thousands of devices and managing those can get unruly," said Drake. "HP's probably recognizing it can do an even better job by expanding and formalizing a relationship with RIM. It makes sense for RIM as well because there is a lot of synergy and opportunity."

HP also does a big business supporting Microsoft Exchange servers. As RIM also now supports Exchange, Gold speculates RIM could be looking to HP to enhance its support Exchange.