Optical/IP Networks

Next Up in the M&A Parade

Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT)'s planned $3.9 billion acquisition of Symbol Technologies Inc. (NYSE: SBL) makes it more likely that rival companies -- including arch-rival Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) -- will pursue their own acquisitions in the mobile enterprise space. Just which of the many players in the market the Scandanavian titan will go after remains to be seen.

"I think [a Nokia purchase] is likely -- the Motorola [versus] Nokia battle is on and in more than just consumer devices," says Ellen Daley at Forrester Research Inc. "Enterprise mobility is the hot one."

Nokia is not saying anything about such prospects at the moment. Nokia "does not comment on rumor and speculation," a spokeswoman for the company tells Unstrung. "We are certainly open to acquisitions, but we would not comment on any particular plans."

Nokia's last big acquisition in the mobile enterprise space was mobile synchronization player Intellisync, in November 2005. (See Nokia's Enterprise Effort.) Motorola's buyout of Symbol, however, would give it a much broader swathe of enterprise technologies, particularly in vertical markets.

This is why bar-code scanner and ruggedized computer maker Intermec Technologies Corp. is seen as one of the most likely candidates. "It's more likely now," says Rob Enderle, head of the Enderle Group . "They may want to control this group as a stronger hedge against Motorola." Vendor sources, however, note that no other merger or acquisition candidates cover all the areas that Symbol does. Therefore, the company could be looking at specific pieces of the mobile enterprise puzzle.

"I think [the most likely takeover candidate would be] a WLAN player -- not RFID," comments Forrester's Daley. "RFID is not hot enough yet and there's not enough competition from Motorola, even with the Symbol purchase."

Daley sees Aruba Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: ARUN) or Trapeze Networks Inc. -- two of the largest startups left in the enterprise WiFi market -- as the most eligible targets in this sector.

Nokia has already introduced standalone WiFi access points for carrier and enterprise applications, but it doesn't have an 802.11 controller product to speak of. The company, however, could provide all the security infrastructure around such a product line since it does have an extensive range of wired and mobile security boxes. Enderle, on the other hand, sees fixed/mobile convergence (FMC) as a prime sector for Nokia to buy into.

Nokia is already doing plenty of the legwork in the FMC market. The company is working with Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) on the enterprise side and running public trials of the technology in Oulu, Finland. (See Cisco, Nokia Team on FMC and Nokia Trials FMC.)

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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