INSIDE MOBILE: Visto Acquires Good Technology from Motorola

Visto, a major supplier of wireless e-mail and Internet information access, just announced the completion of its acquisition of Good Technology from Motorola. Going forward, the combined companies will operate together under the name Good Technology. Here, Knowledge Center mobile and wireless analyst J. Gerry Purdy discusses how the result of Visto's acquisition of Good Technology could provide consumers and enterprise customers with the best phone-based e-mail and mobile information management solution out there.


You have to hand it to Doug Brackbill. He's been relentlessly focused on mobile e-mail for most of the past 20 years. Some call him the "father of e-mail" since he was the creator of MCI Mail back in the pre-Internet days. He created one of the first wireless e-mail services when he was with SkyTel. And then he became a founder of Visto that had a vision back in the late 1990s to make your e-mail available everywhere: on your desktop, on the Web and on your mobile phone.

Doug left Visto for a few years, but then returned in early 2008 as Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer. Visto had made a lot of progress over the years, working with wireless operators providing subscribers with e-mail and access to other mobile information services. But the company was still primarily focused on consumers. RIM BlackBerry and Motorola Good Technology led the market in the enterprise.

Then, a series of events occurred over the past few months which gave Visto a chance to successfully play in the enterprise space: Visto had filed a lawsuit against Motorola regarding patent infringement claims regarding Good Technology; Motorola was hemorrhaging badly, reeling from not having a successful sequel to the Motorola RAZR cell phone, and Motorola declared that they wanted to focus more on wireless handsets.

I suspect that the acquisition of Good Technology came about in a rather straightforward manner: Visto had claims against Motorola that might have required a large settlement at a time when Motorola was losing money. Visto began talking about acquiring Good Technology to complement their consumer focus. Motorola agreed to offer Good Technology to Visto for reasonable terms that included settlement of all claims and some downstream royalties paid over a reasonable period.

Bam! Just like that, Visto gets access to the second most successful corporate wireless e-mail service behind BlackBerry, and they retain Motorola as a distribution partner. The deal is so good that Visto has adopted Good Technology as its brand going forward.

Just a few years ago, all the independent e-mail services were being "gobbled up" by wireless handset makers as a maneuver to migrate from non-recurring handset sales to recurring revenue from services such as e-mail-just as RIM was doing with BlackBerry. First, Motorola purchased Good Technology. Then, Nokia bought Intellisync. And finally, Sybase acquired e-mail and services provider Extended Systems with its OneBridge e-mail solution.

However, by the fall of 2008, Nokia had determined that it was difficult for them to make inroads into the enterprise email market. As a result, Nokia announced they were going to shut down their enterprise e-mail products and services. Instead, they decided to only offer e-mail support to consumers via their Ovi (their new services portal).

By the end of 2008, the recession hit Motorola particularly hard because it didn't make a quick transition from their previously successful RAZR phone. While enterprise markets are good for Motorola via their acquisition of Symbol Technologies (with their strong, rugged device portfolio), they decide to unload their Good Technology wireless e-mail offering for the enterprise to Visto. It is interesting to note that Good Technology is located in Silicon Valley. The folks at Good reported to Motorola in the Schaumburg area of Chicago, but with the spin out to Visto, the assets are owned again by a Silicon Valley company.