What is Motorola going to do with Symbol?

Motorola is buying Symbol - but didn't it already have some projects involving other WLAN partners?


By now, you’re likely well aware that mobile WAN titan Motorola is acquiring wireless LAN veteran Symbol Technologies for $3.9 billion. For now, anyway, analysts assure us that there will be little short-term impact on the existing Symbol customer base in terms of price or product availability and support.

With the move, says Rachna Ahlawat, research director at Gartner, “there is finally a chance for the wireless WAN and the wireless LAN to come together [within Motorola]. It’s always a challenge for [merging] companies to integrate product lines,” she acknowledges. “But overall, it’s a positive step for industry,” she says.

Symbol, slated to become a wholly owned subsidiary of Motorola, will form the core of Motorola’s enterprise group. But what does that mean for the mobile-office partnerships and products Motorola has long had in development for blending cellular and Wi-Fi networks with PBX dial plans and features? Will dual-mode platforms using other Wi-Fi vendors’ equipment move off Motorola’s radar, now that Motorola is in the WLAN business itself?

Steady as she goes Motorola spokeswoman Lisa Barclay says no. The current Motorola goal remains for any Motorola-enabled dual-mode capabilities to be system- and vendor-agnostic, she says.

The longest running Motorola project of this nature has been the Enterprise Seamless Mobility product suite created in 2004 with partners Proxim Wireless and Avaya for handing off signals between Wi-Fi and cellular networks and enabling roaming across the two environments. While the solution, including a prototype dual-mode handset from Motorola, has been in beta for more than two years, it hasn’t been sold commercially.

In July 2005, Motorola announced a similar relationship with Cisco, whereby the companies were slated to extend Cisco CallManager IP telephony extensions, features, and unified communications out over the cellular network and Cisco WLANs. But that project was scrapped just a few months later.

The existing Motorola Enterprise Seamless Mobility trial customers will continue to receive support and will be transitioned to a next-generation system, Barclay says. The newer system, expected next year, is slated to potentially support additional flavors of Wi-Fi, presence, instant messaging, and other unified communications capabilities.

She says that there are ongoing discussions with Cisco about extending CallManager across both single- and dual-mode handsets. “But there’s nothing to report right now,” she says.

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