Chalk is best known for its Mobile Chalkboard application, which pushes secure rich media content to handsets in a similar manner that e-mails get delivered to BlackBerry devices. The pushed content goes through the BlackBerry Enterprise Server, and it can include audio, video, surveys, click to call requests, and tests. The application is mainly used in enterprises and governments, and it's compatible with handsets like the BlackBerry Bold, Curve, and Pearl.
The acquisition will be subject to approval of 75% of Chalk's shareholder during a January 2009 vote, as well as court approval. RIM said it will loan Chalk about $1.8 million to fund the company's operations until the transaction is completed.
The move shows the growing importance of applications in the smartphone space. Users have been able to buy third-party applications for years from places like Handango, but the experience could be a bit cumbersome, and the mobile programs did not always catch on with much of the mainstream.
But Apple's introduction of the App Store has brought mobile apps to the forefront in the smartphone market. The user interface and simple integration with iTunes made it simple for iPhone and iPod Touch users to search, buy, and download apps, and the service has been an undeniable success for customers and developers.
RIM is also planning to launch its own online storefront for mobile apps in March 2009. Unlike Apple, RIM's store could be more focused on enterprise apps which makes the Chalk acquisition a natural fit. Organizations that have deployed BlackBerry Enterprise Server or BlackBerry Professional Software are expected to retain control of what applications can be downloaded to BlackBerry smartphones within their corporate deployments.