BlackBerry maker Research In Motion is on a buying streak lately, as it quickly starts to realise that it has to do something big to catch up with the smartphone tech leaders, Apple and Google, after getting passed.
Its latest deal seems targeted at RIM’s big base of enterprise customers. It may also be aimed at the BlackBerry iPad rival that is in the works.
In case you missed it over the weekend, RIM has reportedly acquired DataViz, which made the “Documents To Go” software for smartphones, which lets you open and modify Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents, sync files between your computer and mobile device, etc. (Palm users may be the most familiar with the “Documents To Go” line, and now that it’s owned by RIM, this could be a loss for Palm — something Palm’s new owner, HP, may have to address.)
So why would RIM want this company?
In part, to improve its product offerings for BlackBerry users, who may want to open and edit Office documents on their smartphones — something that is increasingly convenient now that smartphones have fast-enough processors and big screens.
This could also be RIM’s “office” strategy for its forthcoming tablet; Apple’s versions of Word (“Pages”), Excel (“Numbers”), and PowerPoint (“Keynote”) have been top sellers since the iPad launched in April, showing how valuable the “office” trio still is. We assume that Google will eventually have a Google Docs plan for its forthcoming tablets. If RIM’s tablets are going to have any traction in the enterprise, they will need good “office” software.
But bigger picture, it’s also about fending off Microsoft, which is about to release a new version of its mobile operating system — Windows Phone 7 — that has built-in Microsoft Office support.
Microsoft has a HUGE customer base inside corporations because of its desktop software and server businesses, and it’s a logical move for Microsoft to eventually target the enterprise with smartphones and tablets, too. (Not to mention Microsoft’s potentially targeting RIM as an acquisition.)
So if RIM is going to fend off Microsoft in the enterprise, where it still is the leader, it’s going to need better software. This is part of that. But, the problem — as usual, for RIM, it seems — is that it may already be too late.
More analysis from Dan Frommer: RIM Is The New Palm