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What did RIM get for its money?

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BlackBerry maker RIM might have swallowed company assets and the majority of the staff for its forthcoming tablet, but DataViz reckons there's enough left to keep Documents To Go on multiple platforms.

RIM admitted acquiring the majority of DataViz staff and some of its assets ten days ago, in a deal reported to have cost $50m. The company isn't saying what, or why, but support for MS-Office documents has got to be a key function for its forthcoming tablet; so we'd bet that's what those ex-DataViz staff are working on.

And now we (finally) hear from DataViz itself, which tells us the company is alive and well and planning new versions of Documents To Go for all its supported platforms. We already know that WebOS has been dropped by DataViz, but the company will still support Android as well as iOS and BlackBerry. Which raises the question: what did RIM buy for its (reported) $50m?

Rumours of a BlackBerry tablet have been circulating for months, with the general consensus being that a BlackPad will be launched by the end of 2010. That pad is going to need Documents To Go, if it's going to integrate with the enterprise work flow in the way that RIM has done so effectively with its phones, and $50m is a small price to ensure that happens.

Documents To Go isn't the only thing DataViz makes - but it's hard to imagine that RIM is interested in RoadSync; synchronisation being one of the company's strengths, and $50m for a password-storage app would be somewhat overpriced. Documents To Go is particularly good at maintaining formatting and other peripheral information, a technology that DataViz calls InTact and which will appeal to RIM and its tablet-using customers.

The BlackBerry is rather under-served with Office products: Android has a fair selection (though none will check spelling), as does iOS (including Apple's own offerings), which will matter more to a tablet than a phone.

The good news for current users of Documents To Go is that RIM won't care about the product existing on other phones - not if it has tablets in mind. With DataViz now confirming updated versions in the next few weeks it seems fears of disappearing support are groundless, even if that support will come from fewer than half the staff.

For those interested in a BlackPad this is good news - an integrated Office package will differentiate from the competition, and we wouldn't be surprised to see some sort of enterprise-based document repository to go with it, just to ensure everyone in the office is using RIM. ®

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