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Keeeeeeeerash!

Symbol Technologies Inc. (NYSE: SBL) is planning to announce some brand new 802.11 switch products in the first quarter of next year, Unstrung has learned.

The firm, which pioneered the concept of stripped-down "lightweight" access points controlled via a central switch with its "Mobius" architecture, will have "an entirely new product" out in the first quarter of next year, Symbol spokesman Mark Ferrone confirmed on Monday afternoon.

"I can't comment on product specifics," Ferrone added.

New products may help the company better stand out against the horde of competitors that have arrived on the scene since Symbol first switched on. Symbol's original Mobius product line, a name which for reasons unknown the company is not using any more, has been overshadowed by these new entrants, according to Meta Group Inc. analyst Chris Kozup.

IDC's Abner Germanow is upbeat about Symbol's initial foray into the WLAN switch market, pointing out that the sector is so new that all the players' product lines are being tweaked to meet customer requirements.

Only 10 to 15 percent of Symbol's total revenue comes from wireless infrastructure sales, Germanow notes, leaving plenty of upside. Further, the firm tends to use these products to gain new customers. "They're more concerned about how to drive device sales."

Still, it is surprising that this wireless switch pioneer, and number two enterprise wireless LAN equipment provider by market share (after Cisco), doesn't seem to have won customer mindshare as well as some of the new entrants to this market.

Unstrung's sister research organization Heavy Reading recently published its Fall 2003 Wireless LAN Market Perception Study, asking nearly 800 IT buyers to rank hardware and software suppliers in the enterprise wireless LAN market (see Perception Is Everything for more on this).

Asked about brand recognition of Symbol in the 802.11 switch sector, respondents rated Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), Extreme Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: EXTR), and Foundry Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FDRY) higher -- even though Symbol introduced Mobius months before the others started to ship product.

"Symbol's certainly had a lot of problems in this market," oppines Meta Group's Kozup. The switch product itself has "fallen short of customer expectations," he says, though without elaborating, and he adds that Symbol's regulatory problems and management changes this year have also hurt its image in the market place.

— Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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