Motorola hatching big plans for Symbol

RFID, Wi-Fi, and Wi-Max technologies seen as a good match

Motorola’s Greg Brown was channeling Winston Churchill last week when he announced his company’s plans to take on the BlackBerry market with wireless devices for all manner of enterprise jobs.

“We will address the needs of mobile workers in the office, out in the field, in the factory, at retail, and across the supply chain,” said Brown, president of Motorola’s network and enterprise business. Hey! What about “on the landing grounds”?

But big talk was the order of the day, as Brown tried to explain what Motorola hopes to do after it digests its $3.9 billion acquisition of Symbol Technologies.

Symbol’s stock and trade is handheld computers and bar-code scanners used to capture data in warehouses and factories. If you have signed for a UPS package recently, the chances are you did so on a Symbol device. Motorola’s specialty, on the other hand, is WANs.

The plan is to join the two and push more wireless data devices into all corners of the enterprise by cutting across devices, infrastructure, applications, and services, Brown said.

“Symbol’s strength in capturing, moving, and managing data inside the building directly complements … Motorola’s network capabilities outside of the building,” Brown said.

Motorola is already envisioning the types of products and services it will be able to offer. For example, Symbol is a leader in RFID, the short-range wireless technology that companies are just beginning to use to track products and assets. Motorola would like to expand RFID’s reach by combining cellular, Wi-Fi, WiMax, and RFID in a way that can help enterprises track products throughout their lifecycles, spanning private networks inside offices and public networks outside, said Ed Zander, Motorola’s chairman and chief executive.

Symbol is developing wireless devices catering to various industries, such as medical, transportation, and retail. “I looked at all the devices and imagined the Wi-Fi and WiMax play,” Zander said.

Motorola also sees opportunities in Symbol’s enterprise WLAN business. Symbol has deployed 45,000 such networks that will eventually need to be upgraded to higher speeds. And there are still lots of enterprises that have yet to install their first wireless networks, Zander added.

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