RIM buys mobile browser maker

Research in Motion (RIM) Ltd. was wise to buy Toronto-based Torch Mobile because the Waterloo, Ont. BlackBerry maker needs to improve its Web browser, an industry analyst says.

Torch Mobile’s main product is Iris, which was developed using the open source WebKit browser programming tool. RIM officials were not immediately available to comment, but the company said in a statement that Torch Mobile’s employees have joined RIM effective immediately.

“As part of the global RIM organization, the development team from Torch Mobile will continue its active participation in the WebKit development community,” RIM stated.

Torch Mobile president George Staikos referred all questions to RIM.

“I’m not surprised rim has acquired them,” said Michelle Warren, president of Toronto-based MW Research and Consulting, adding RIM needs to improve the browsers on its wireless devices.

“The (Apple) iPhone continues to challenge RIM and that touch screen capability continues to get kudos from users.”

She added RIM’s strengths are the security features of the BlackBerry, plus the BlackBerry Enterprise Server administration and management software but faces threats from other manufacturers, such as Nokia, which recently inked a deal with Microsoft, which will provide Office software for smart phones running the Symbian operating system.

Read a review of BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5.0
Torch Mobile Iris 1.1.0, announced in February at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, includes touch screen key and mouse cursor control capability. Other features include the ability to open multiple windows and tabs, secure sockets layer and support for iPhone.

It was not immediately clear whether RIM plans to make Iris available for other devices, but Warren said she would be surprised if RIM made it available for anything other than BlackBerry handhelds.

“I expect see more RIM products with touchscreen in the next six months to ward off the challenges Apple is giving them.”

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