RIM's DataViz purchase could impact iOS support

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Research In Motion has made a move to shore up its position in the mobile productivity market by snapping up software maker DataViz. But the mobile phone maker’s move could have an impact on iPhone and iPad users.

Reports of the purchase first emerged this week. A representative for Research In Motion confirmed the acquisition in an e-mail to Macworld.

“RIM has acquired some of the assets of DataViz and hired the majority of its employees to focus on supporting the BlackBerry platform,” the statement read.

While Research In Motion didn’t disclose terms of the purchase, the blog CrackBerry.com estimated the deal was worth $50 million. Research In Motion’s representative would only say that “the transaction was not material to RIM in the context of RIM’s financial results.”

DataViz makes Documents To Go, a mobile application that lets users view and edit Microsoft Office files on their mobile devices. Documents To Go is available on several mobile platforms, including Research In Motion’s own BlackBerry devices as well as the iPhone and iPad.

It’s unclear exactly what Research In Motion’s DataViz acquisition means for the future of the iOS versions of Documents To Go. The Research In Motion representative didn’t respond to our questions about whether the company plans to keep developing iOS versions of DataViz’s apps, and e-mails to DataViz went unanswered.

The App Store currently features two versions of Documents To Go. The $10 Documents To Go Office Suite lets users edit, create, and view Word and Excel files while also viewing PowerPoint, PDF, iWork, and other files. A $15 version—Documents To Go Premium—adds the ability to view and edit supported attachments using Microsoft Exchange. Both offerings are hybrid apps that run natively on the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.

The iOS versions of Documents to Go were last updated in June when DataViz added iOS 4 compatibility to both apps. The App Store page for both versions of Documents To Go promise another update “very soon” that will feature speed enhancements, external keyboard support, multi-tasking, and other features.

It seems unlikely that Research In Motion would drop iOS development entirely. Documents To Go is a popular App Store offering—as of this writing, the Premium version of the app holds down second place in paid business app sales for both the iPhone and iPad. Earlier this month, Apple announced that iOS is installed on more than 120 million devices around the world—a pretty sizable market for app makers.

Still, if Research In Motion plans to focus its newly acquired DataViz resources on supporting BlackBerry phones, it does raise questions as to what kind of support iOS users can expect going forward. It will be worth keeping an eye on future updates to Documents To Go for the iPhone and iPad to get an indication of what Research In Motion’s plans are for its mobile productivity apps.

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