RIM Uses Travel Partners To Market BlackBerry Travel App, For Now

Research In Motion plans to leave the business-to-business marketing and sales of its BlackBerry Travel app to travel partners, although leveraging its enterprise sales partners to work directly with corporations is a possibility in the future, a RIM executive said Thursday. Research In Motion and WorldMate last month announced they had rebranded the WorldMate app for BlackBerry as BlackBerry Travel, and RIM noted several participants in its partner program including Hilton, United and Travelport.

The free app essentially is what WorldMate calls its Gold version with a new user interface. Like the predecessor WorldMate Gold for BlackBerry, BlackBerry Travel automatically synchronizes itineraries received by email rather than requiring the user to forward such emails. Also distinguishing BlackBerry Travel from WorldMate's apps for other mobile platforms, said RIM senior director for strategic business development Martyn Mallick, is participation in RIM's "super app" concept, which enables the app to communicate with apps offered by partners. For example, he said, the company expects in the future to enable users to connect with airline apps to request and then import mobile boarding passes. Mallick also envisions integration with BlackBerry's traffic app.

Despite RIM's powerful position in the enterprise market--versus, say, the iPhone--Mallick said the BlackBerry Travel app "out of the gate" largely is a consumer play for RIM. Still, he said, over time it could be a component of the BlackBerry enterprise sale. For now, the company is "leveraging" WorldMate's relationships with Travelport as well as a number of travel management companies including American Express and Carlson Wagonlit Travel. "There's no reason to reinvent all of that," he said. "We're also looking to expand on that fairly aggressively."

Mallick said TMCs likely would retain their relationships with WorldMate even for the BlackBerry Travel app, which a Travelport spokeswoman said is what that reseller now calls the BlackBerry version of WorldMate.

Asked if RIM has any plans to integrate the app with BlackBerry's base operating system, Mallick said, "We can look at that direction. At times, when we see services that do extremely well, we do look to preload them for ubiquitous deployment. Now, it's an app."

The app synchs with a browser-based tool developed with WorldMate that, like the app, enables room bookings through Expedia and but no air bookings.

Mallick would not disclose financial details of RIM's partnership with WorldMate, other than to say "we haven't acquired WorldMate" when asked if RIM made an investment. A week after the companies unveiled BlackBerry Travel, WorldMate founder Nadav Gur revealed plans to leave the company.

In addition to itinerary management, BlackBerry Travel offers profiles, flight status updates, hotel bookings, currency converters, weather forecasts, LinkedIn integration and local searches. The app does not run on all BlackBerry devices and operating systems.