RIM buys Dash to create its own location services

CAROLINE GABRIEL

Published: 8 June, 2009

Location aware services are one of the most important drivers of mobile web uptake, and RIM is looking to enhance its position in this market by acquiring specialist Dash Navigation for an undisclosed sum.

Dash is a digital mapping provider, which last year made the same transition many have expected from RIM over the years - ditching devices and relying on software licensing. But RIM hung on in the phones segment and is now beefing up its consumer appeal with 3G smartphones and integrated applications, which will now include location services.

Its new unit entered the GPS market in 2005 with a mapping device called Dash Express, then became software-only last year. Over that period it has secured $70m in venture capital from investors including Crescendo Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Sequoia Capital.

This brings RIM its own location technology for the first time, reducing its dependence on partners - operators, Google or other software houses - in this key area and mirroring similar moves by handset makers to control their own services. Most dramatically, Nokia paid over $8bn for navigation specialist Navteq in late 2007.

RIM recently opened its own app store and aims to develop its software and services business, saying it is moving towards a 'fourth screen' strategy with the handset providing a unified experience with the PC, television and landline.

Meanwhile, Google may face a challenge from its device partners' own-brand web services, but it is rolling out new offerings of its own for the mobile platform. The latest is a version of the orkut social networking and discussion site, downloadable to phones that support Java.

Google first unveiled orkut in 2004 and expanded it with its own web site last year. Now the orkut Mobile App enables users to read and write 'scraps' (this service's name for messages), update their status, search for and accept friends, and automatically upload and share photos.