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Movirt-who? BlackBerry gobbles maker of multi-line smartphone tech

Brit biz Movirtu enables multiple active numbers on one SIM

In a bid to firm up its pitch to enterprise customers, troubled mobile biz BlackBerry has bought Movirtu, a maker of tech that allows a smartphone to have multiple phone numbers active at the same time using a single SIM.

Movirtu says its Virtual SIM Platform is based on "standard network technology," rather than VoIP, and it allows separate billing for each phone number.

BlackBerry is reportedly interested in the tech to enable so-called bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and corporate-owned-personally-enabled (COPE) mobility scenarios, where workers carry a single phone that has separate "personalities" for business and home use.

"Enterprise customers will now be able to provision a single device for corporate and personal use; allow discrete enterprise policies to be applied to only the work side of the device, while allowing full usability of the personal portion of the device; split bills for voice, data and messaging; and provide the ability to switch between profiles easily," BlackBerry enterprise services boss John Sims said in a canned interview on Thursday.

The split-billing capability could soon be an important one. In August, a California court ruled that companies must reimburse employees for work-related calls made on their personal phones, even if the employees have unlimited-minute subscription plans. Similar lawsuits in other jurisdictions will likely follow.

In a press release, BlackBerry said the Movirtu tech complements its own Secure Work Space, BlackBerry Balance, and "other partitioning systems." Movirtu also holds patents on its Virtual SIM Platform.

Although BlackBerry and Movirtu had not worked together prior to the acquisition, BlackBerry said it now plans to support mobile operators in deploying Movirtu's SIM-splitting system "on all major smartphone operating systems."

The terms of the deal were not disclosed. London, UK–based Movirtu was previously a privately-held firm backed by a number of capital funds. It now becomes a wholly owned subsidiary of BlackBerry.

In case you were wondering how a company in financial straits as dire as BlackBerry's can go around gobbling up other firms, however, consider that at the end of its most recent financial quarter it reported that it was sitting on $3.1bn in cash and investments, and even with sales in a spiral it still took in $966m in revenue for the period.

The move comes as BlackBerry CEO John Chen battles to reverse the company's long decline, an effort that has included cutting roughly 60 per cent of its workforce over the past few years.

BlackBerry's share price surged upward by around 5 per cent on the news. ®

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