Motorola has been pushing for more sales from business, taking solid steps like helping developers include enterprise search functions on wireless handhelds. But for most businesses, Motorola is just a really big company with a supercool cell phone. Motorola's deal to buy Symbol for $3.9 billion in cash marks a leap ahead for its enterprise ambitions.Symbol is high-tech but low sizzle, with its rugged handhelds that do jobs like scan inventory and transmit package signatures. It's a mainstay in bar code-intensive industries like transportation and has made gains in areas like health care as they ramp up mobile use. The company has pushed hard into RFID, seeing the threat and the opportunity.
Motorola has been looking for more business IT opportunities, trying to ride the coming unstoppable wave of companies moving their apps onto mobile devices. For example, it created a company called CanvasM to develop custom wireless business applications and help companies implement apps and related services as part of a joint venture with IT and telecom services provider Tech Mahindra. It has its own line of business-minded, rugged handhelds, specialized radios, and network offerings. It's making a major play in the development of WiMax wireless networks.
But the megatrend here is all about putting more data on mobile networks and more function in workers' mobile devices--no matter what the device or what kind of wireless network. What's interesting to me about the Motorola-Symbol deal is the potential to build more of Symbol's specialized technology into standard-issue cell phones. We're all going to expect our mobile phones to do more. Motorola needs to be in a position to help us do that.