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Nokia takes stab at RIM with Intellisync deal

In a play that could offer businesses more options in wireless e-mail and other mobile applications, Nokia announced plans last week to buy Intellisync for more than $400 million.

Nokia has made a number of recent moves to gain traction as a business-class provider, including teaming with Symantec Corp. for wireless security and introducing a new line of handsets for mobile workers.

Last week, the Helsinki, Finland-based mobile phone provider continued in that direction, announcing plans to plunk down $430 million in cash to buy Intellisync Corp., a San Jose, Calif., vendor of wireless e-mail middleware.

One industry analyst said the move will help Nokia plant its feet in large corporations and make it a viable alternative to BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM).

"What this will do for enterprises is give them a capability they've never had before," said Jack Gold, president and founder of J. Gold Associates, a Northborough, Mass., research and analyst firm.

According to Gold, the purchase will ultimately give Nokia users the ability to connect nearly any device to any data source, application or network. "It's really a changing dynamic," he said.

Gold said the deal, which is expected to be completed early next year, serves two purposes: First, it makes Nokia more visible to companies by introducing a "strong enterprise software play." Second, it alleviates the need for Intellisync to compete against the big boys like IBM and Microsoft.

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"If you're Intellisync, you don't want that competition," he said. "This is a good deal for both sides. Nokia gets to build out mobile applications, while Intellisync gets a parent that has some bucks."

Another not so subtle driver behind the acquisition, Gold said, was Nokia's obvious slap at RIM.

"This is really a shot across RIM's bow," he said. Nokia's addition of its business-class E-Series handsets -- "the E is for enterprise," Gold said -- and the recent release of the Nokia Business Center e-mail product will help Nokia compete with RIM in the high-end device market space.

"This will ultimately make Nokia look more like RIM, in that it can provide a complete solution from the hardware device through to the software connectivity application, and will offer carriers a new partner to challenge RIM dominance," Gold wrote in a "Technology Flash" update.

While Intellisync would not comment directly on the purchase, Woodson Hobbs, the company's president and CEO, said in a statement: "Our combined teams will present the most compelling mobility offering to enterprises and carriers all over the world."

Nokia also could not be reached for comment on the deal, but in a statement, Mary McDowell, executive vice president and general manager of Nokia's business group, said, "Enterprises face increasing challenges when it comes to selecting devices, enabling access to e-mail and security corporate data, while carriers are facing more and more complexity to support these demands. We want to make it simple for our business customers to mobilize their workforces no matter what their starting point."

Though Gold said the deal is beneficial to both players, he noted it remains to be seen whether Nokia can hit the ground running with a solid business offering. Gold said Nokia's first venture into that space failed, causing him to be skeptical this time around.

"Nokia has tried this in the past," he said. "Let's see if they can really get into the enterprise market. My question long term is: Are you guys serious enough about this to succeed?"

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