Until recently, Microsoft offered to host BlackBerry Enterprise Servers for $10 per month per user, but that has apparently changed. They now offer the add-on as a free add-on to existing hosted Exchange customers. From their Mobility Solutions sheet:
“Hosted BlackBerry for Microsoft Exchange Online is acquired as an add-on to Exchange Online Standard or the Business Productivity Online Suite Standard from the Microsoft Online Services Customer Portal. Pricing is U.S.$0 per user per month with no minimum number of users required. Hosted BlackBerry service can only be added to paid Exchange Online or BPOS subscriptions, not to trials.”
This is apparently part of the launch of a new Microsoft cloud platform called Office 365, which is due to land in June.
RIM had already started to moving to free with their BES Express product, and I suspect as competing mobile platforms offer respectable cloud services for keeping devices and desktop computers wirelessly synced-up (like Google or MobileMe), BES may become less and less worth the premium price to smaller businesses. From Microsoft’s perspective, they may already have a vested interest in supporting their own competing ActiveSync enterprise standard, as well as promoting Windows Phone, but BlackBerry is something of a permanent fixture in many businesses, and Microsoft would be shooting themselves in the foot by not supporting it.
Update: Oh hey, an official announcement.