Enterprise Sales Soar in '04

The worldwide market for enterprise wireless LAN gear grew strongly in 2004, according to the latest report from Synergy Research Group Inc., with sales up 40 percent year-over-year at $1.234 billion (see Report: WLAN Gear Sales Grow 30%).

And the research firm says that wireless LAN switches, controllers and thin access points (APs) comprised nearly half of the enterprise sales for the year, at $595 million.

Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) comfortably maintained its status as enterprise wireless LAN leader with 44 percent market share in 2004, followed by Symbol Technologies Inc. (NYSE: SBL), which took 14.8 percent of the market. Old-school networking firm 3Com Corp. (Nasdaq: COMS) just beat out wireless LAN switch startup Airespace Inc. for third place, with shares of 5.5 percent and 4.8 percent respectively. Proxim Corp. (Nasdaq: PROX), which traditionally takes third place in the 802.11 corporate market, was relegated to fifth with a 3.9 percent stake (see Synergy: Switches Sizzle for third-quarter figures).

Even these rankings, which include traditional, standalone business-class APs, reveal the impact that the concept of centralized wireless LAN architectures had in 2004. The general concept of a switch managing thin APs has helped to stimulate the entire market and enabled Airespace to come from nowhere and grab a respectable slice of the action.

Symbol is still the top dog in the switch/controller sector with sales of $22.3 million for the fourth quarter of 2004. Airespace made $14.5 million in switch sales for the last quarter of 2004, followed by startup rival Aruba Wireless Networks, which saw revenues of $5.5 million for its WiFi switches.

Airespace marginally outsold Symbol in the skinny AP market for the fourth quarter of 2004 with revenues of $9.1 million, compared to Symbol's sales of $8.8 million. Aruba again came in third with thin AP sales of $1.8 million, up 52 percent on the previous quarter.

Which is all very cosy, but the switch scene will look very different this time next year, since Cisco has blasted its way into the sector with its plan to buy Airespace for $450 million (see Cisco to Acquire Airespace).

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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