by Al Sacco

Next on RIM’s BlackBerry Acquisition Trail: “Social Address Book” Service, Gist?

Dec 20, 2010
MobileSmall and Medium Business

RIM may be set to acquire yet another company: Gist, a service that collects online info and builds profiles for your contacts.

Hot on the heels of BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion’s (RIM) latest acquisition of Swedish software-UI design-firm TAT, a new report on suggests RIM hasn’t put away its hefty checkbook quite yet; RIM is reportedly close to sealing another deal with Gist, a Seattle-based startup with an online service that builds “social profiles” for users’ address-book contacts.

BlackBerry 6 Address Book Search Screen
BlackBerry 6 Address Book Search Screen

Gist’s service builds profiles for contacts by pulling publicly-available information about those contacts from the Web and online data-collection sources and then gathering it all in one place. RIM would presumably scoop up such a company to bolster its BlackBerry address book utility, which is currently effective, but simple.

Gist claims to already have more than 100 million business profiles. And the company offers plug-ins for a variety of popular products, including Gmail, Outlook, both the Firefox and Chrome browsers, IBM Lotus Notes, and Gist also has iPhone and Android mobile apps.

The RIM/Gist deal isn’t final, and no financial details are available quite yet, but’s “industry sources” say the pact is near completion. If the report proves to be accurate, RIM will have acquired at least four different major firms during the past couple of years, all with the idea of filling in some gap in the BlackBerry OS or ecosystem—think Torch Mobile for the BlackBerry Webkit browser; Cellmania for app distribution via BlackBerry App World; QNX, for its Neutrino Realtime OS (RTOS), which is expected to be a “foundation” for future BlackBerry Tablet and smartphone software; and, most recently, TAT, which RIM will presumably use to makeover its BlackBerry software.

RIM is currently facing strong pressure from competitors like Apple and Google, and it has never before been more important for the BlackBerry-maker to ensure its OS feels fresh to users, BlackBerry loyalists and newbies alike.

RIM’s BlackBerry address book could definitely use a good shot in the arm, so to speak—I’ve been using third-party BlackBerry/Outlook address book plug-in Xobni for more than a year now to bolster my BlackBerry contacts. And it looks as though RIM agrees. In fact, RIM, via the BlackBerry Partners Fund, invested a significant chunk of change in Xobni just last year, so it stands to reason that RIM has been considering a major revamp of its BlackBerry address book for some time.

Again, the RIM/Gist deal isn’t final, but it does seem to make sense, and assuming GigaOm’s sources are correct, we may see a related announcement from RIM and/or Gist in the coming days or weeks.


GigaOm via

Al Sacco covers Mobile and Wireless for Follow Al on Twitter @ASacco. Follow everything from on Twitter @CIOonline. Email Al at