BlackBerry to buy messaging alerts firm AtHoc to expand software base

Wed Jul 22, 2015 7:59am EDT
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By Euan Rocha

TORONTO, July 22 (Reuters) - BlackBerry Ltd said on Wednesday it is buying privately-held AtHoc, a provider of secure, networked crisis communications, as it moves to broaden its software offering and generate revenue from its BBM messaging service.

San Mateo, California-based AtHoc's services are used by a number of top clients including the U.S. Department of Defense, Homeland Security and a host of blue-chip companies, to provide software that seamlessly allows them to reach staff via their smartphones, or via digital displays, radios, and even sirens, in times of crisis. Its services help organizations and people share information during business continuity and rescue efforts.

The terms of the transaction, which is expected to close by November, were not disclosed.

"AtHoc is an alerts system, but it also needs richer content and that can be provided by BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), which offers not just text, but voice, picture and video sharing, so we can provide a much richer experience to their clients," said BlackBerry Chief Executive John Chen in an interview.

The deal is the latest in a string of acquisitions made by the smartphone pioneer, as it pivots to focus more on software and turn around its faded fortunes.

Earlier this year, Chen said he saw a part of the company's targeted software revenue growth in the current fiscal year coming from acquisitions of companies that will allow it to sell more value-added services.

In April, Waterloo, Ontario-based BlackBerry announced plans to acquire privately-held software maker WatchDox, which secures files. Its services are used by some of the world's top federal agencies, private equity firms, and a slew of Hollywood studios.

This followed last year's buyout of Secusmart, a German firm that specializes in voice and data encryption and British tech start-up Movirtu, whose software allows users to have two phone numbers on the same device with a single SIM card.   Continued...