RIM Branches Out to Corporate Phone Networks

The BlackBerry maker buys Ascendent Systems, which develops software that can extend office phone functions to mobile devices, and also releases version 4.1 of the BlackBerry Enterprise Server.

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion on March 10 announced that it has acquired Ascendent Systems, a small company that makes voice software for mobile devices.

Ascendent, based in San Jose, Calif., makes the Ascendent Voice Mobility Suite, software that "pushes" phone calls from a corporate PBX to extend desk phone functions to wireless devices.

RIM specializes in products that push corporate e-mail to its wireless devices. "The Ascendent Voice Mobility Suite is a perfect complement to the BlackBerry Enterprise Solution," said Jim Balsillie, chairman and co-CEO of RIM in Waterloo, Ontario, in a prepared statement. "This deal allows us to further extend and enhance the use of wireless communications in the enterprise by offering a voice mobility solution that helps customers align their mobile voice and data strategies."

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The acquisition announcement came a week after RIM reached a $612 million settlement with patent-holding company NTP, ending a years-long court battle that had threatened to shut down BlackBerry service in the United States.

"I probably spent a good 25 percent of my time on litigation," Balsillie said in a conference call following the settlement. "This will free up at least a day a week. I think youll see a raft of launches and partnerships in the next 60 days."

In addition to the acquisition, RIM announced that the company has started shipping version 4.1 of the BlackBerry Enterprise Server, the software that sits behind a corporate firewall and manages a companys BlackBerry devices.

BES 4.1 originally was due by the end of calendar 2005; company officials said the delay was due to comprehensive testing of the product. Furthermore, it was not clear until March 3 whether the company would have to update its software with a "workaround" in light of the NTP lawsuit.

BES 4.1 includes Sarbanes-Oxley compliance, role-based administration and support for messaging servers from IBM and Microsoft, officials said.

It also supports the BlackBerry Mobile Data System, an application development suite that includes tools for creating BlackBerry applications other than e-mail, using Web services.


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