ATandT Grows Product Portfolio Beyond iPhone with inCompass Wireless Buy

AT&T's acquisition of certain inCompass Wireless assets will enable the carrier to help enterprises do what it did for consumers with the iPhone: Use apps.

AT&T announced Nov. 2 that it has acquired assets and took on some employees from inCompass Wireless, in a move to expand its enterprise-mobility solutions and professional-services expertise.

A mobile systems integrator and technology provider, inCompass Wireless provides mobile application and wireless solution development with back-office systems, mobile managed services, and wireless technology integration and implementation, AT&T explained in a statement. Financial details of the acquisition were not disclosed.

"With the acquisition of inCompass Wireless, we're strengthening our already strong foundation to enable business model transformation through mobile applications, machine-to-machine [M2M] solutions and mobile services," Michael Antieri, president of AT&T's Advanced Enterprise Mobility Solutions group, said in a statement.

Antieri added that the inCompass team brings with it "end-to-end solution design, software system integration and device management skills" that will enable AT&T to reach out to broader customer bases in vertical markets, such as field force automation, sales force automation, fleet management, the supply chain and wireless infrastructure."

A number of enterprises are adopting mobile applications, but they don't all have the expertise to tie those applications into their back-office systems, says analyst Ken Hyers, of Technology Business Research (TBR). With the inCompass acquisition, AT&T will be better able to provide consulting to those companies, he says.

"AT&T is expanding very aggressively into the M2M space," Hyers told eWEEK. "TBR believes that, by 2015, the number of global M2M connections will exceed the number of wireless voice connections-this is a belief validated by AT&T's and other operators' rapid expansion into the space. Much of that growth will come from enterprises, which are using M2M and related applications to automate their services and increase efficiencies."

AT&T is more popularly tied to the Apple iPhone, the device that started the consumer application craze. While it has been the exclusive U.S. provider of the iPhone since 2007, it's expected to lose that status in early 2011-a scenario that's been described as "problematic" for the carrier. Over the last year, AT&T has worked to round out its portfolio of mobile products with Android devices and gained exclusive rights to a number of other smartphones, such as the BlackBerry Torch and several Windows Phone 7 handsets.

While the inCompass acquisition isn't tied to the iPhone, said Hyers, its devices, such as the iPhone and iPad, as well as smartphones that followed from the iPhone, will likely be running the enterprise apps AT&T is looking to help companies deploy.

"I think it's safe to say that AT&T is looking to broaden its portfolio and products so that its business and future growth is not tied to any one device," said Hyers.

AT&T formed its Advanced Enterprise Mobility Solutions group earlier this year.