Palm will install Blackberry software on its Treo 650 from next year.

The news comes just weeks after Nokia announced similar plans with an upcoming phone. The Blackberry technology's owner, RIM, has had a licensing program called BlackBerry Connect in place for two years, but most customers come from Europe and Asia-Pacific, said marketing VP Mark Guibert. Palm's Treo 650 gives that programme a boost since it is one of the most popular smart phones in the US.

Palm will include the BlackBerry software alongside its Versamail e-mail client to keep a familiar look-and-feel in place for Palm OS users, said Joe Fabris, director of wireless marketing for Palm. Treo 650s with the BlackBerry software will be able to access e-mail from Microsoft Exchange or IBM Lotus Domino servers.

The BlackBerry software allows corporations to "push" email from behind a firewall to mobile devices. RIM has its own hardware, also called the BlackBerry, but is looking to expand the number of devices that use its software, said Rob Enderle, principal analyst with The Enderle Group.

"The BlackBerry is a great little e-mail box, but as soon [they] added telephony, they started to struggle," Enderle said. RIM offers several devices, such as the BlackBerry 7100, that allow users to make phone calls as well as access their e-mail. But Palm and Nokia do a much better job of integrating voice and data communications in a single device, he said. Nokia's 9300 phone with BlackBerry will be available next month in the US.

RIM is expected to continue making handhelds for the near future, having announced plans at CTIA to use Intel processors in future devices. But burgeoning software deals with the likes of Palm, Nokia, and other handset makers allow RIM to supplement its hardware business with higher-margin software licenses, Enderle said. This business model could also be attractive if RIM loses its legal battle with NTP over patents related to the BlackBerry devices, he said.