BlackBerry Maker RIM Purchases Cellmania

New Research In Motion acquisition Cellmania offers infrastructure for apps, an area where RIM could use a boost. AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile, Virgin Mobile and Orange are Cellmania customers.

Research In Motion Aug. 24 made its latest move in a game of strategy to stay alive in the North American mobile marketplace and to prevent Apple iPhones and Android-running smartphones from capturing more of its market share.

Applications and content provider Cellmania announced that it has been acquired by RIM. Current Cellmania customers include AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile, Virgin Mobile and Orange.

"Cellmania is excited to announce that our company is now part of Research In Motion," the company said on its home page. "Our team has joined RIM's global organization and will continue to bring our expertise in Application Storefront development to the BlackBerry platform."

The announcement added, "The Cellmania team will continue to support our current client base."

The company essentially helps operators, infrastructure providers and content owners to create mobile ecosystems-offering infrastructure that enables downloading of content onto mobile phones, as well as billing management and other services.

"Cellmania also provides the world's largest repository of mobile content consisting of over 200,000 items across 200-plus handsets from 100-plus countries in 55-plus languages," the site said. "Content owners can provide their wares to Cellmania to distribute across ... distribution channels with a win-win business model."

The area of mobile applications has become a major focus of competition. When Palm, now owned by Hewlett-Packard, was struggling to promote its Pre and Pixi handsets, its limited number of applications was often cited as a hindrance. Today, RIM's App World offers about 9,500 applications, while Apple, which started the trend, offers more than 225,000 and even Google, which came to the game later than RIM, offers more than 65,000 applications in its Android Market.

On Aug. 20, RIM launched BlackBerry App World 2.0, an updated version that enables developers to offer applications at lower prices than they were previously able, and gives users the option of paying with a credit card instead of through PayPal. The new version also features tabbed sections to make searching for apps simpler, allows for the quick scanning of barcodes and makes it easy for users to transfer their applications to a newer BlackBerry handset.

RIM executives have been hinting that big changes were under way. In June, during a first-quarter earnings call with media and analysts, RIM Co-CEO Jim Balsillie enthused: "Once you see the new app world we talked about, and once you see the new platforms, you'll be all very surprised. ... I think you'll just be amazed by how it's a quantum leap over anything that's out there."

On Aug. 3, RIM, with exclusive carrier partner AT&T, introduced the BlackBerry Torch-the first BlackBerry handset to combine a multitouch display with a QWERTY keypad and to run the BlackBerry 6 OS. Also expected to be part of RIM's rejuvenation is a tablet device. Rumored to be titled the BlackPad, the device is expected to run software from QNX, which RIM announced its intention to acquire in April, and to make a debut in November in time for holiday sales.

As of Aug. 25, the RIM Website made no mention of the Cellmania purchase.