Device operating systems

RIM's DataViz Buy Could Help With Tablet Biz

BlackBerry 's buying spree continued today with the purchase of DataViz Inc. , a business application developer best known for its Documents-To-Go productivity suite.

The acquisition has been rumored for days now, but RIM issued a brief statement today confirming that it had "acquired some of the assets of DataViz and hired the majority of its employees to focus on supporting the BlackBerry platform. Terms of the deal were not disclosed but the transaction was not material to RIM in the context of RIM's financial results."

DataViz currently provides its productivity app to all major smartphone platforms, including the iPhone, Android, and Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK)'s Maemo. Following the acquisition, these OSs may meet the same fate as WebOS, which DataViz recently stopped supporting. Its Documents-To-Go service lets users open and modify Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) Word, Excel, or PowerPoint documents and sync them between the computer and mobile devices.

When faced with the decision to support Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) in the enterprise or bolster its own platform enough to compete, RIM appears to have chosen the latter. The Canadian company has been using acquisitions to fill the gaps in its wireless armory and better compete against its rivals for the past few years, but it's stepping up its game lately. (See Should RIM Support Apple & Android? and RIM Sings Torch Song.)

Its spree of purchases include Viigo in March, followed by QNX Software Systems in April. It also grabbed up smaller players Alt-N Technologies and Dash Navigation in 2009. Perhaps its most significant acquisition, however, took place over a year ago with Torch Mobile, makers of a Webkit-based rendering engine. (See RIM Buys Up App Partner and RIM Buys QNX.)

Ross Rubin, wireless analyst with the NPD Group Inc. , says DataViz is not as strategically important as the Torch Mobile acquisition, but it is similar in that it fills in a key application for RIM. In this case, that's Documents-To-Go, as well as the time-tested suite of translation and file viewing capabilities that can be leveraged within its OS.

"Increasingly, mobile OS vendors are adding productivity suites to help view and edit documents created on PCs," Rubin writes in an email to Light Reading Mobile. "It could also be a key piece of software should RIM proceed with a larger-screened tablet device as it is rumored to be doing."

That rumored device would be the BlackPad, RIM's purported response to Apple's iPad. Enterprise apps, similar to what DataViz offers, have proven popular on the iPad. An enterprise-heavy tablet competitor would also help RIM fend off competition from Microsoft as it plots its Windows Phone 7 tablet. (See Tablet Parade Looks to an Apple Takedown and Top 10 Non-Android Devices to Watch.)

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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