At a time when even the best small companies have trouble staying in business, the wireless industry was encouraged last week by Extended Systems Inc.s announcement to buy ViaFone Inc.
The purchase better ensures that ViaFones software will survive and help Extended Systems to improve its ability to integrate its products into existing infrastructures, experts say.
"Extended Systems is a company that is known," said Stephen Drake, an analyst at International Data Corp., in Framingham, Mass. "ViaFone is smaller. Theres a lot of hesitation by enterprises to buy [from startups] because of the disenchantment of Internet companies going out of business. Theres absolutely the issue of credibility and viability. ViaFone is up and coming, but this acquisition definitely helps them."
"If you look at what our customers are going to need going forward, they want to have one vendor they can look to, to provide the platform they need going forward," said Steve Simpson, president and CEO of Extended Systems, in Boise, Idaho. Simpson added that customers had asked that Extended Systems buy other smaller companies as well because they liked the technology but were wary of a small wireless companys viability.
Extended Systems plans to integrate its XtndConnect data synchronization software with ViaFones OneBridge Mobility Platform, which customers said made them confident not only in ViaFones viability but in Extended Systems ability to support its products.
"I think ESI will have a far easier time linking two products over which they will now have near-complete control," said G. Logan Gordon, associate dean of the Krannert Graduate School of Management at Purdue University, in West Lafayette, Ind., an Extended Systems customer. "ViaFone may solve ... some of the issues [ESI has] had in the past—linking to existing infrastructures. ViaFones experience in linking to CRM [customer relationship management] databases will be a real positive."
The XtndConnect Server focuses on synchronizing e-mail and calendar data to handhelds, while OneBridge focuses on mobilizing other enterprise applications, primarily for various vertical markets, such as the transportation and pharmaceutical industries, but also for more general enterprise applications such as sales force automation and CRM.
Combining the products also will mean Extended Systems will offer real-time and offline capabilities for enterprise applications on Wireless Application Protocol phones as well as Palm OS, Pocket PC and Research In Motion Ltd. BlackBerry devices. Extended Systems plans to keep offering both platforms for now and to start selling an integrated platform by the first half of next year.