‘Acquisition in Motion’?

Contact: Brenon Daly

Instead of Research In Motion, maybe we should start calling the company ‘Acquisition In Motion.’ With Monday’s announcement of its purchase of ubitexx, the BlackBerry maker has now rung up nine acquisitions in just the past 13 months. That’s as many as the company had done, collectively, in the previous seven years. As we think about RIM’s accelerated M&A pace, we can’t help but wonder how much of that activity is essentially papering over weaknesses that were exposed by its two big smartphone rivals.

For instance, RIM needed some help on its core OS, so it went out about a year ago and spent $200m on QNX Software Systems. Then it realized that office productivity apps could stand to be displayed a bit more clearly on BlackBerry devices, so it reached for DataViz. And then there was the somewhat clunky user interface, which RIM hoped to polish with its purchase of The Astonishing Tribe in December for an estimated $125m. Those deals – along with the other half-dozen recent acquisitions – were seen as signs that RIM was getting the message that its phones just weren’t as appealing as the Apple iPhone or Google Android-powered devices.

The pickup of tiny German startup ubitexx pretty much makes that sentiment official. (That’s particularly true when we consider that the transaction came just two days after RIM reported that it will sell fewer phones than it predicted this quarter, and that the phones that do sell will be going cheaper than the company originally planned. The warning knocked RIM into a tailspin, and the stock has now shed one-third of its value over the past year.) Ubitexx allows RIM to bring mobile device management for Android and iOS smartphones and tablets to its BlackBerry Enterprise Server – a somewhat belated recognition that it isn’t just BlackBerry devices that are coming to the office these days