Vertical integration works in the Japanese car industry, so why not in Canadian telecommunications?

Smartphone designer Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) saw one of its software providers falling by the wayside and stepped in with a mini-bailout of its own, agreeing to buy the smaller entity. Chalk Media's media management tools for the BlackBerry -- and only the BlackBerry -- has landed contracts with several large corporate customers, which makes the outfit valuable to RIM. It's generally hard to figure out exactly who these big customers are, because Chalk's press releases announce them as a "Fortune 50 health care company" or an "international advertising agency."

I don't think the phone giant would have bought this outfit under happier circumstances. The company's strengths lie in hardware, and software sales account for just 3% of the company's sales. And Chalk's business has been eroding over the past few years. The little company has never made an annual profit, and sales have fallen from about $4.2 million in 2005 to $1.6 million in the last four quarters.

The sale price for the whole kit and caboodle is $23 million Canadian, or about $18.5 million in American cash. On top of that, RIM is lending $2.2 million Canadian to its beau just to make sure it can survive until the wedding date. That's why I think of this deal as a bailout.

Research In Motion certainly needs all the business heft it can muster these days. With the global economy locked in a death-defying dive and competition from newcomers like Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android and Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone, the traditional leader in business-oriented mobile communications needs to learn a few new tricks. The click-screen BlackBerry Storm, sold exclusively through Verizon Wireless, a joint venture between Verizon (NYSE:VZ) and Vodafone, in the U.S., is a good start. But it would do no good at all to lose a few juicy corporate customers just because of a small software developer's untimely demise.

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