RIM Acquires Browser Maker Torch Mobile

RIM BlackberryBlackBerry smartphone might have a lot of things working in their favor—QWERTY keyboards, strong support for mobile push messaging, decent hardware, and now an Apps Store—but a top-flight mobile Web browsing experience just hasn’t been one of them. But now there’s some hope on the horizon for BlackBerry fans: RIM has just made a deal to acquire Torch Mobile, makers of the well-regarded Iris mobile Web browser, with the express purpose of bringing Iris to the BlackBerry.

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

The Iris browser is based on WebKit, an open source Web browser engine that began life as an offshoot of the KTHML and KJS projects, and which is used by Apple’s Safari and Google’s Chrome, along with a number of other applications. The acquisition should give RIM a way to bring its BlackBerry browsers up to speed with competitors like Google Android and the Apple iPhone, as well as open the door on interactive Web-based technologies like Flash and Silverlight.

“Torch Mobile’s team of highly skilled developers has been actively involved in Open Source development and includes contributors, Committers, and Reviewers of the WebKit project,” the company wrote on its blog. “As part of RIM, these developers will continue to be active participants in the WebKit development community.”

The Iris browser currently runs on Windows CE and Windows Mobile 5 and 6, along with Qtopia and Qtopia Core 4.3 and and Qt embedded 2.3. It already offers a widget platform to tapping into things like Google Gadgets, Yahoo Widgets, and other interactive Web-based applications.