After months of rumors, BlackBerry developer Research in Motion announced today that it has acquired the social CRM and online contact manager Gist.

Gist, based in Seattle, creates a universal contact database that can be accessed from the web, the iPhone or on Android. Previously, I raved about the Gist Social Profiles for Gmail Firefox plugin that not only “smartly pull a picture of other …people [in your Gmail sidebar,] it also streams the latest tweets and Facebook updates from everyone in the conversation, provides each person’s company name, as well as phone numbers.” Using Gist you can quickly access social profiles of the each and every person in an email thread their and contact information in entirety – without ever actually having to search on Facebook, or Twitter, or Google for this information.

BlackBerry developer RIM announced they have acquired Gist

On the Gist blog, they say they are extremely excited about their future at RIM and how Gist will be used by millions of BlackBerry users around the globe. What it doesn’t say is how much RIM paid to acquire Gist. Though Gist currently has apps for Android and iPhone, the integration Gist provides for CRMs, desktop and web-based email – as I noted in my previous review – is really what has made Gist shine.

As many businesses and professionals still use BlackBerry OS for contact and message management, it will be interesting to see what impact RIM’s acquistion of Gist will have on the future of BlackBerry communication. The more important question is whether this is the first of several software acquisitions intended to move RIM from being a device manufacturer to a communication software company with a broad footprint spanning many devices? I have my doubts that Gist alone can save the sinking ship that is Blackberry, but as part of a broader strategy where RIM evolves to a CRM services company, Gist provides an important piece of the puzzle.