RIM quietly buys Slipstream Data for compression technology

Research in Motion Ltd. has acquired a Waterloo, Ont. company that specializes in data acceleration, compression and network optimization technology for an undisclosed amount.

The deal, which was finalized this past weekend, will see SlipStream Data Inc. become a wholly-owned subsidiary of RIM while continuing to operate under the SlipStream brand with SlipStream’s management heading up that division, according to Mark Guibert, vice-president of corporate marketing. Calls to RIM’s headquarters in Waterloo were redirected to the firm’s public relations firm in New York City. Attempts to reach En-hui Yang and Ajit Sing, two University of Waterloo professors who founded SlipStream in 2000, were also unsuccessful. A SlipStream employee declined to comment on the acquisition, referring all inquiries to RIM. RIM did not issue a press release on the deal.

Lawrence Surtees, vice-president and principal analyst of communications research at IDC Canada said RIM’s move allows them to capitalize on the growing demand for multimedia in the wireless market.

“If a company isn’t primed fully and isn’t starting to ride the wave of multimedia they’re going to miss out on what is clearly a burgeoning opportunity,” said Surtees. “This is a brand new space, like cell phone cameras a couple years ago. Within a year it went from nothing to massive.

“Last year we started to see signs that wireless multimedia is the next big thing.”

SlipStream, which is privately owned, has developed a software tool that compresses data, allowing it to be more efficiently transmitted across networks. RIM plans to integrate the technology across its BlackBerry platform, including BlackBerry Internet Service, BlackBerry Enterprise Server and handset software, said Guibert in an e-mail.

RIM, however, declined to comment further on specific features that are in development for BlackBerry but added that SlipStream’s technology will allow it to deliver info to customers faster using less bandwidth.

“Network technologies have been longstanding priorities for RIM and significant differentiators for Blackberry,” Guibert wrote. “We believe these differentiators will remain important moving forward.”

Eduardo Kibel, an industry analyst with Frost & Sullivan Canada who covers the wireless handheld market, said the increased bandwidth capabilities will allow enterprise users to take advantage of media-rich experiences such as video conferencing and multimedia messaging.

“Companies will be able to have not only video streaming for TV shows but they’ll be able to do video conference calls when they’re on the go,” said Kibel.

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