Update: RIM may get new browser through Torch Mobile acquisition

The BlackBerry maker buys the developer of the Iris browser to compete against Opera Mini, Skyfire, and Safari on the iPhone

BlackBerry phones may soon get a new browser, now that Research in Motion has acquired Torch Mobile.

The Toronto company is best known for its Iris browser, which is built on Webkit and currently runs on Windows Mobile phones. It also runs on Qtopia, the application development platform for Linux devices.

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In a brief note on its Web site, Torch wrote that its team of developers will join RIM and "will now be focused on utilizing our WebKit-based mobile browser expertise to contribute to the ongoing enhancement of the BlackBerry platform." Webkit is the open source software used in Apple's Safari and Google's Chrome browsers, as well as Nokia's Series 60 browser.

RIM confirmed that it had acquired Torch but offered few other details. The companies did not disclose the value of the acquisition.

It's unclear if the Iris browser will continue to be available for Windows Mobile users or Qtopia. Qtopia was first developed by Trolltech, a company Nokia acquired last year.

BlackBerry devices come with a browser designed by RIM that some users have complained is not as easy to use as some other mobile browsers. It is facing some new competition in the browser market.

Rather than use the built-in browser, BlackBerry users can download Opera Mini, a lightweight browser from Opera. The popular Skyfire browser opened a small test of a version of a browser it is developing for the BlackBerry last month.

Browsing from mobile phones has grown more prevalent with the introduction of the iPhone and its easy-to-use browser.

RIM has made other acquisitions this year, including security software developer Certicom and GPS navigation company Dash.

This story was updated on Aug. 24, 2009.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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