Wireless Knowledge Buys Out Shares Held by Microsoft

Wireless Knowledge announced that it has bought out all its shares currently held by Microsoft. As a result, it becomes a subsidiary of Qualcomm.

Wireless middleware manufacturer Wireless Knowledge Inc. on Tuesday announced that it has bought out all its shares currently held by Microsoft Corp.

As a result, Wireless Knowledge becomes a subsidiary of Qualcomm Corp., which co-founded Wireless Knowledge with Microsoft in 1998.

"I dont think the cooperation [with Microsoft] worked to the degree that we all had hoped it would," said Eric Schultz, CEO of Wireless Knowledge, in San Diego.

Wireless Knowledge initially struggled in the marketplace as it tried to sell a less-than-stellar wireless access platform to carriers that werent interested. So early in 2000 the company shifted its focus to corporate enterprises and fixed some glitches in the technology.

"We had a less-than-perfect technology model at the beginning," said Schultz, who came to the company from Microsoft. "When we changed it to an enterprise software model, we fixed a lot of that."

But around the same time that Wireless Knowledge was finally gaining a foothold with its Workstyle Server platform, Microsoft introduced its "Airstream" initiative in the form of a product that seemed to compete directly against Wireless Knowledge.

Microsofts Mobile Information 2001 Server, which launched in the spring, is based largely on technology from Wireless Knowledge and offers access to various Microsoft applications--and only Microsoft applications--using the Wireless Application Protocol. Wireless Knowledge received royalties for every sale of MIS.

Wireless Knowledges Workstyle Server, on the other hand, supports platforms beyond those of Microsoft, including wireless access to Lotus Notes and Domino. By the time MIS Version 1.0 was launched, Workstyle Server was on Version 3.5.

When MIS was launched, Microsoft officials indicated that Wireless Knowledge existed mainly to support the better good of MIS and that existing Workstyle Server customers would migrate to MIS when future versions of MIS became available. Wireless Knowledge officials disagreed, and the conflict of interest was obvious.

"Theres nothing there that says the day MIS comes out that we have to put a bullet in Workstyle Servers head," Peggy Biddison, chief marketing officer at Wireless Knowledge, said earlier this year. "Theyre not fully aware of everything that were doing. We plan on being a built-to-last company."

Wireless Knowledge officials are now saying that Microsofts interest lay too deeply in selling its own products, while they want to support myriad platforms.

"Microsoft has a multibillion-dollar business around Windows and BackOffice," said Jeff Ross, director of corporate development at Wireless Knowledge. "It only makes sense that their goals are focused on those core flagship products."

Microsoft essentially agreed.

"At Microsoft we have recently introduced a product line to accelerate mobile application development and enable Office and Exchange customers to become mobile office workers any time and any place," said Bob Muglia, group vice president at Microsoft, in Redmond, Wash., in a statement. "For this reason, both companies have decided it is best to pursue our respective goals using independent technologies."

The technologies arent entirely independent--MIS is based largely on technology from Wireless Knowledge. But Wireless Knowledge expects the independence to instill confidence in customers who want to see support for platforms beyond those of Microsoft.

In addition, being a wholly owned subsidiary of Qualcomm should please Sprint Corp. and Verizon Corp., both of whom have agreements with Wireless Knowledge to sell Workstyle Server to corporate customers. Qualcomm owns the patents for all of the wireless telecommunications standards that are based on CDMA, which both Sprint and Verizon plan to use in their path to third-generation wireless networks. Qualcomm also owns BREW, a wireless development platform for handheld devices that Wireless Knowledge intends to support in its products.

Besides Workstyle Server, Wireless Knowledge sells development tools and microportals. Another wireless access platform, Anystyle Server, which works both online and offline, will be folded into the Workstyle Server family, officials said.

The company also has plans for software that supports sales force automation software. A packaged product is due next year, Schultz said.