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BlackBerry Maker Acquires Ascendent

The maker of BlackBerry e-mail devices, fresh from settling a lawsuit that threatened its very business, is buying a company that will allow it to marry BlackBerries with corporate phone systems.

"It makes your BlackBerry perform just like your desktop phone," said Jim Balsillie, co-chief executive of the company behind the BlackBerry, Research in Motion Ltd.

RIM announced Friday that it has bought Ascendent Systems, a San Jose, Calif., company that makes software for connecting cell-phones to a corporate phone switch, or PBX.

Ascendent's software will be merged into RIM's later this year, enabling office-phone functions like simultaneous ringing at several locations, call transfer and spontaneous teleconferencing, Balsillie said.

The two companies have been partners, but Ascendent's software was sold separately. Balsillie said it will work with any type of PBX.

"So many of our customers were asking for the functionality of Ascendent, it really made it natural to start to integrate it into the core offering," Balsillie said.

Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Ascendent is privately held.

RIM, which is based in Waterloo, Ontario, last Friday settled a long and hard-fought patent lawsuit by paying $612.5 million to NTP Inc. RIM acknowledged that customers had put off placing new orders in the last few months due to the threat, however small, of a court-ordered shutdown of the BlackBerry system.

Balsillie denied that the company had put off the acquisition until after the settlement. "We've been working this full-on, all along," he said.

Along with the Ascendent acquisition, RIM announced an upgrade to its software that features tighter integration with Lotus, Microsoft and Novell corporate instant messaging software.

The upgrade, available now, also makes it easier for companies to let BlackBerry users tap intranet resources like databases, Balsillie said.

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