Here’s an acquisition that has come unexpectedly, but not surprisingly: BlackBerry and PlayBook maker RIM (NSDQ: RIMM) has bought New Bay, an Ireland-based mobile social networking and cloud-services specialist NewBay for a sum believed to be in the region of $100 million.
NewBay counts a number of mobile operators as customers, including T-Mobile, Everything Everwhere (the JV between France Telecom’s Orange and T-Mobile in the UK), AT&T (NYSE: T), Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) and U.S. Cellular, where it provides technology for the carriers’ mobile social networking services and cloud-based storage services. In February, the company announced a global licensing deal with LG to power social networking services in its consumer devices.
It is not clear at this point how RIM’s purchase of New Bay will impact those pre-existing deals, particularly those with other device makers. (We have reached out to NewBay and RIM for comment and will update this post as we learn more.)
It’s not clear, either, what RIM intends to do with its newest acquisition. NewBay’s product offerings, mobile social networking services and “smart” address books, are two other areas that could potentially also be useful to the company. But perhaps more key to the acquisition is New Bay’s expertise and business in cloud-based media services, which it offers via products like its LifeCache Digital Vault.
That is something that RIM currently lacks as a product offering to compete against the likes of Apple’s iCloud or Amazon’s Cloud Drive. Yes, RIM already offers some cloud-based media services — for example, RIM’s BBM Music service, which it offers in partnership with the music streaming company Omnifone — but no centralized home for these products.
If you based RIM’s progress on its acquisitions alone, you can see the forming of a potentially interesting offering from the company. Back in April, the company made another acquisition to further its cloud strategy, the calendar startup Tungle. In December 2010, the company bought a company bought Scandinavian user experience and interface specialists The Astonishing Tribe.
The Irish Times says that RIM intends to keep NewBay’s R&D center in Dublin. It currently employs 200 people.
Investors in NewBay prior to the acquisition include Balderton Capital and Fidelity Ventures.
Irish Times points out that according to the most recent filed accounts for the company, in 2009, NewBay made revenues of €18 million compared to €15.8 million in 2008; net losses were €2.7 million compared to €1.9 million in 2008.