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.
Good Technologys Bright Future
Good Technology’s bright future
Visto has been a major supplier of wireless e-mail and Internet information access to wireless operators. They also have been quite litigious in filing lawsuits over their patents relating to push e-mail, one of which was still pending against Motorola. With this acquisition, the legal issues disappear.
The challenge for Good Technology (Visto’s new name) is to determine how to market and integrate the engineering resources for the two products: Visto’s Mobile 6 has been very focused on consumers and sold through (mostly European) wireless operators using the operator’s brand, with a wide range of device support. And their recent announcement of support for social networking makes it easy for subscribers to interact with their favorite social networking sites, such as Facebook, using their mobile phone.
Good Technology is also sold through (mostly North American) wireless operators and direct to major enterprises as a direct competitor to RIM BlackBerry. They also supported a number of devices, but much of their business has been sold for use with one of the Palm Treo SmartPhone handsets (both Windows Mobile and Palm OS).
The most likely “going forward” scenario is for the new Good Technology to develop a migration to a common code base, with a single offering of the Good Mobile Suite (our suggested brand names):
1. Good Mobile Messaging – traditional e-mail
a. Behind-the-firewall solutions for the enterprise (with support for Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Domino/Notes)
b. Services to consumers via wireless operators
c. Services to small business via a hosted solution
2. Good Social Networking – mobile interaction with the user’s social networking portals such as Facebook and MySpace
3. Good iPortal Synchronization – operates like MobileMe, providing synchronization of Calendar and Contacts between the user’s desktop(s) (typically Outlook), the Web and wireless handsets
4. Good Device Management – enterprise remote management of wireless handsets
5. Good Mobile Connection and Intranet – making connections to back-end enterprise systems
I’d also recommend that Good Technology support the new and innovative Palm Pre wireless handset that uses Palm’s new Linux-based WebOS platform. That will be a very solid offering for enterprise customers, even though it’s exclusively provided through Sprint for six months.
Good Technology now can become a solid competitor to RIM. BlackBerry has a lot of momentum, both in the traditional enterprise space (connecting to the BlackBerry Enterprise Server or BES) and their more recent migration into the consumer space (with their BlackBerry Internet Services, which provides support for traditional consumer e-mail services such as Gmail, Yahoo and AOL). But RIM is a closed hardware/software system that only operates on BlackBerry devices. Good Technology operates on hundreds of wireless handsets, so their open strategy should be well received by enterprises and consumers alike.
Overall, this is an excellent move by Visto, which may have simply “fallen in their lap” as a result of their patent litigation with Motorola. Motorola’s management team may have felt a need to “slim down” and focus on Google Android and Windows Mobile handsets, and were willing to consider a more modest valuation after years of mega-hype.
I remember the day back in 2001 when Danny Shader (then CEO of Good Technology) paid a visit to go over Good Mobile Messenger. I thought that it was a better design than BlackBerry because it provided better ease-of-use and had more integration, especially between the calendar and the e-mail applications. The result of Visto’s acquisition of Good Technology should provide consumers and enterprise customers with the best phone-based e-mail and mobile information management solution out there. Their challenge is to execute on that vision.
The new Good Technology has a chance to become the leader in wireless e-mail. This will be good for customers, good for the wireless operators and good for the wireless handset vendors. That’s a lot of “good.”
For more than 16 years, Dr. Purdy has been consulting, speaking, researching, networking, writing and developing state-of-the-art concepts that challenge people’s mind-sets, and developing new ways of thinking and forecasting in the mobile computing and wireless data arenas. Often quoted, his ideas and opinions are followed closely by thought leaders in the mobile & wireless industry. He has a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Stanford University. He can be reached at [email protected].
Disclosure Statement: From time to time, I may have a direct or indirect equity position in a company that is mentioned in this column. If that situation happens, then I’ll disclose it at that time.