Qualcomm Closes Wireless Knowledges Doors

The company is absorbing Wireless Knowledge's assets and discontinuing the Wireless Knowledge product line, which includes Workstyle Server Edition and Workstyle Desktop Edition.

Qualcomm Inc. is shuttering its Wireless Knowledge subsidiary.

Officials at the San Diego-based company confirmed last week that they are discontinuing the Wireless Knowledge product line, which includes wireless middleware that provides remote access to enterprise applications.

"As we got more involved in enterprise applications as Qualcomm, we started to see redundancies between Wireless Knowledge and Qualcomm activities and realized it would be better if those were combined," said Norm Fjeldheim, CIO of Qualcomm, who took the helm at Wireless Knowledge in October 2002.

The Wireless Knowledge Workstyle Server Edition and Workstyle Desktop Edition product lines will be supported until the end of 2003, or the end of current customers agreements, but only on existing licenses.

"Ive been scrambling to try to figure out what to do," said Tommer Catlin, IS director at Webcor Technologies Inc., a construction contracting company in San Mateo, Calif., that uses the Workstyle server to support several different wireless devices. "Im like, why? Your product is great! I just needed like five or seven more licenses, but they said they wouldnt issue any."

Qualcomm officials said the company is working on a deal with fellow middleware provider Extended Systems Inc. in which ESI will get access to the Wireless Knowledge code and customer list, making it easier for customers to transition from the Wireless Knowledge server to ESIs OneBridge server, should they decide to do that. Qualcomm will continue to offer hosted services through its Wireless Business Solutions group and will install software such as the OneBridge server for customers who still prefer a behind-the-firewall solution.

Wireless Knowledge was founded in 1998 by Qualcomm and Microsoft Corp. Qualcomm wanted to encourage wireless data traffic on CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) networks, as its main product line was and remains CDMA chip sets. Microsoft wanted to encourage sales of Pocket PC devices. Wireless Knowledge initially struggled in the market as it tried to sell a less-than-stellar wireless platform to carriers. In 2000, the company shifted its focus to corporate enterprises and bolstered the technology, which supported both Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Development Corp.s Notes and Domino platforms. But as Wireless Knowledge was gaining a foothold with its Workstyle Server platform, Microsoft introduced its Airstream initiative in the form of a product that competed directly with Wireless Knowledges software. Microsoft launched MIS (Mobile Information 2001 Server) in the spring of 2001. The product, based in part on technology from Wireless Knowledge, offered access to various Microsoft applications. In November 2001, Microsoft sold its entire stake in Wireless Knowledge to Qualcomm. And then last year, Microsoft announced it was phasing out MIS, with plans to put wireless capabilities directly into Exchange instead.

Consolidation and squelching are common in the enterprise wireless software industry. Late in 2001, Palm Inc. bought the assets of ThinAirApps Inc., with plans to use the companys ThinAirServer technology to create middleware that would support Palms line of Tungsten handheld computers. But in March, Palm nixed its plans for the middleware.

Fjeldheim said this is all indicative of a market trend.

"We were finding that we were getting a lot more traction with a services-led strategy rather than a product-led strategy," he said. "The product side is getting crowded, and in the long term there will be a lot of major players who will be incorporating this functionality into their [back-end software] products. Qualcomm has been working on alliances at an accelerated pace."

(Editors Note: This story has been updated since its original posting to include comments from Qualcomms Norm Fjeldheim and details of Qualcomms talks with Extended Systems Inc.)