Analyzing Acquistions: Hot Summer Fun

Opinion: Business deals provide good water-cooler fodder. What do the recent Hewlett-Packard and Qualcomm acquisitions mean?

Theres always the chance that we put too much stock in the nuances of mergers and acquisitions. Like an NFL post-game breakdown, we examine every detail of the deal to assign meaning and foretell the future.

It could be that sometimes a deal is just a deal for the sake of the bottom line. But wheres the fun in that? Its a lot more fun to pass a hot August day wondering why Cisco wants to buy Nokia and, alternately, why Cisco has no interest at all in buying Nokia. Rare is the day that cant be brightened with some newsroom chatter over the ramifications of Yahoos new stake in Chinese auctioneer Is it a mail/messaging effort? Is it a search play? Is it an attack on eBay in the worlds second largest Internet market? Whats with a Chinese site named after a Persian cave robber?

/zimages/6/28571.gifIs Cisco really planning to acquire Nokia? This columnist doesnt buy it. Click here to read more.

Few recent deals have as much water-cooler cachet as Hewlett-Packards decision last week to buy Scitex Vision. For those of us wondering what new CEO Mark Hurds first move—beyond reorgs and job cuts—would be, the $230 million deal offers plenty of fodder.

In case there is any uncertainty, printing remains a priority for HP in a big way ... literally. Scitex Vision makes huge industrial printers used to produce commercial artwork, signs and those fetching billboards that make our commutes just a little more enjoyable.

Its a strong vote of confidence in the printer segment—which takes in $24 billion a year, some two-thirds of HPs total revenue—two months after Hurd segregated the PC and printer units that had been hastily combined by his predecessor, Carly Fiorina.

In addition to indicating where Hurd believes HPs future lies, the deal is a tip of the cap to HP Executive Vice President Vyomesh Joshi, who some saw as being unfairly overlooked by recent corporate events in Palo Alto.

Joshi, who heads the Imaging and Printer Group, clearly has his hands on the wheel now at HP. Free of being saddled with the dog that is the PC unit, hes free to drive HPs emerging vision to tackle all things digital output. Joshi has said he thinks he can double the divisions revenue within 10 years. Hes clearly now going to get his chance to prove it.

That Hurd used his first big move to bolster the division probably says something about the beleaguered PC unit as well ... and its not all good. Looking at the foothold IBM Global Services got in the emerging China market as a result of its Lenovo deal has to have Hurd & Co. thinking. Surely theres a way to let someone else get beat up by Dell in the desktop wars while getting some of that sweet, sweet Asia action.

In a deal of equal drama last week, mobile phone chip maker and professional patent-wielder Qualcomm spent a ton of money—somewhere between $600 million and $800 million—for Flarion Technologies.

Flarion, a Lucent spinoff partially owned by Cisco, owns the intellectual property for a slew of OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing)-based technologies.

The key here seems to be Qualcomm looking to find a way to expand beyond its CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) roots. CDMA patents at the heart of many third-generation networks have grossed much money internationally for Qualcomm, but maturity and obsolescence are beginning to take a toll.

The arcana of Qualcomms IP portfolio expansion gets interesting when you consider just what the company could and would do to emerging technologies, such as mobile WiMax, with ownership of a significant amount of OFDM rights.

Although WiMaxs biggest champions have promoted the wireless broadband technology by promising, among other things, that it would be free of the kind of royalty pressures Qualcomm imposed on CDMA-based services, WiMaxs ability to go mobile depends largely on OFDM. Qualcomm may be late to the party, but it has busted in on WiMax and is likely here to stay.

Executive Editor of News Chris Gonsalves can be reached at

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