RIM moves to buy Gist – thoughts

Om Malik, of GigaOm, seems to have caught the story first about Research in Motion (RIM or Blackberry to you) in talks to scoop up Gist.  I have covered Gist multiple times in screencasts and podcasts, all linked below.

I think RIM could only benefit from this purchase by not merging the social profile capability, from the 10 million reported profiles in Gist, with their own mobile contacts.  I can see Gist as an add-on application that integrates and offers advanced features, but not embedded into the contacts themselves.  Enterprises are wary enough about such companies as Gist pulling content from user’s address books, such as their Lotus Notes integration, as well as bringing social context in.

I have been a Gist user for some time via the web, Google Apps mail and in the past year Lotus Notes integration.  Do I see daily value and find myself scouring the Gist profile there? No.  Have I integrated Gist with my Google Apps accounts and find value there?  Sometimes.

I admittedly run both Gist and Rapportive side-by-side in my Google Apps.  Both have their strengths and integration positives.  Both read the sender and try to match social profiles.  Gist requires quite a bit of manual effort to merge and manage.  Rapportive just shows up but misses some meta data Gist offers.  You have to strive to want to use them on a daily basis with the amount of social data available from anyone that might email you.

RIM device users would be overwhelmed by this quantity of social data entering their handheld lives.  While the Blackberry is the glue that hold the communication and scheduling for millions, it is as simple as that.  Advanced users may load instant messaging programs, separate from the contacts list.  Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) users must have a special profile enabled for social integration to work at all.

For RIM, the idea behind acquiring Gist would be to possibly re-invent the phone address book and make it integral to its core offering. It would actually make a lot of sense for RIM to do this, as it plays to its core strength – namely, messaging. By making the address book more networked and more social, RIM can build a social inbox, much like the one being championed by Facebook.

Om makes a strong statement here, and I normally agree.  Not this time.  I see the purchase as an impossible social inbox.  The massive amount of content with no real filtering would be hurtful to the mobile user in a single, unified, social inbox.  Listing Gist as an additional tool, found through AppWorld would make perfect sense and possibly grow the usage of the devices for those socially connected.

The lack of good applications in AppWorld is an entirely different article.

Previous postings on RIM and Gist of interest: