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RIM acquires Paratek to help refresh BlackBerry

Research In Motion has acquired Paratek Microwave Inc. as it continues to try to differentiate BlackBerry handsets in ways that are meaningful to consumers.

Paratek develops tunable radio frequency technology. The deal points to several ways that RIM could enhance BlackBerry handsets by integrating Paratek?s technology, including to develop multi-band handsets, to produce thinner devices and reduce dropped calls as well as to enable users to upload large amounts of data faster.

?RIM's acquisition of Paratek and its RF tuning technologies plays to its strengths ? enabling broad connectivity for business users,? said Rich Karpinski, senior analyst for mobility at Yankee Group, Boston.
?With more and more flavors of 4G technology going into operator networks around the world, device makers need good solutions for supporting all those networks without adding cost, complexity and heft to devices or running down battery life,? he said.

Consumer-friendly features
The news follows a shakeup at Waterloo, Canada-based RIM that took place in January and saw the company?s co-CEOs replaced by Thorstein Hein, the new president and CEO.

The change in management was an attempt to show the industry that RIM is serious about maintaining a strong role in mobile even as its market share continues to erode thanks to consumers trading in their BlackBerrys for flashier, touchscreen devices such as Apple's iPhone and Android-enabled phones.

The company still maintains a strong presence in the enterprise market. However, this is also beginning to erode as companies increasingly let employees use their mobile devices for work purposes, which often means an Apple device.

According to NPD Group's research, RIM's smartphone market share in the United States was just 10 percent in 2011. Comparatively, RIM had 44 percent market share in 2009.

However, the company still has approximately 75 million active subscribers. 

One of the issues that has been facing RIM is that it has been slow to innovate in the mobile space. 
RIM promised devices built on the new QNX platform but failed to deliver them on time and now says the first QNX devices will not become available until the fall.

RIM zigs
The deal was announced on RIM?s blog.

The industry will be watching closely to see if RIM can leverage Paratek?s technology to freshen up its handsets. 

Paratek?s adaptive radio frequency technology is called ParaScan and was designed for multi-band handsets. This suggests RIM may be looking to develop BlackBerry handsets that can work on a variety of wireless network standards, including 2G, 3G and 4G

Financial terms of the deal were not released.

?It is not the kind of acquisition that is going to have anyone running out to buy a Blackberry or swap out their iPad, but it is the acquisition of a foundational technology that shows that RIM believes it is still in the game and plans to perhaps zig while its rivals zag,? Mr. Karpinski said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York