RIM is planning to shut down Gist, the personal contact management service that it acquired in February 2011. The service will cease operation on September 15th, and up until that time it is offering methods to switch one’s address book and contacts to other services. It is also recommending other contact management alternatives such as Xobni, Nimble, YesWare and Full Contact to its customers.
Gist was started in 2008 by Seattle entrepreneur T.A. McCann, and bankrolled by Paul Allen’s Vulcan Ventures and Foundry Group. And while any closure of a startup service is tough, McCann tells GeekWire that he’s excited about the role the company’s technology is playing in RIM’s next-generation platform, BlackBerry 10.
“Much of the team, even a year ago now, started transitioning to building the PlayBook version of the contact manager, which has much of the Gist functionality,” said McCann. “It is all brand new code, but is similar in functionality.”
McCann is staying on board at RIM as vice president of BlackBerry Messenger and Social Communities, continuing to operate from the company’s Pioneer Square operations where the rest of the Gist team will continue to be based. In addition to McCann, former Gist CTO Steve Newman remains in charge of identity and location-based services.
“We still sit next to one another. I am doing all of the social stuff. And he’s doing all of the identity and location. Personally, both of us are pretty damn excited about what we can do given a large mobile base when we know a lot about them, and we can bring the Gist technology to bear of: ‘Who are my key contacts?’ ‘What do I need to know about them?’ and ‘How can I connect with them to make stronger relationships?’”
RIM employs about 100 people in Bellevue. It also operates the NewBay, a Dublin-based cloud service whose North American operations are in Seattle. The NewBay unit was in the news this week after a report emerged that RIM was considering spinning it off, just 10 months after acquiring it.
RIM has continued to struggle in the face of competition from Apple’s iPhone, as well as the rise of Android. The company is currently going through a restructuring in which thousands of employees are losing their jobs.
McCann said that the Seattle office won’t change in size much in the coming months, but he stressed that “we are staying put in Seattle.” He also said he’s happy with the way things have turned out, noting that when they sold Gist the idea was to take the concept from thousands of users to tens of millions of users. He notes that BlackBerry Messenger alone sends about 140 billion messages each month.
“It is pretty cool. You don’t do that in a startup,” he said.
“From a Gist team perspective, we’ve yet to realize the reason we did the acquisition, and that should be realized in the BlackBerry 10 time frame.”