It looks like the days of independent IMS handset software client specialists may well be numbered.... after the acquisition of Openera by NMS Communications earlier this year, Qualphone has now been acquired by Qualcomm. Qualphone has worked with Nortel and IBM in the past, including participation in an IBM-led trial with Swisscom Mobile on IMS. It has also worked with Infineon to embed PTT functionality into its APOXI handset software framework.
Even more surprising is the low prices paid - just $16m for Openera, and now $18m for Qualphone. Given that these were both quite high-profile specialist players (and in Qualphone's case also had a separate & established business in mobile testing), these are pretty low-ball sums. In what ought to be a rapid-growth field (enabling the creation of IMS handsets), it strikes me as odd that they didn't hang on for a higher price at a later date.
Unless, of course, VCs were unwilling to stump up for another round of investment.....
.... which ties in with my general views that IMS-enabled phones are going to be late in reaching the market, and that IMS handset software vendors are going to struggle, as there are no detailed standards or even generic operator requirements to work against yet. In other words, royalties for "full IMS" software clients on mobile phones won't start to ramp up until 2008-9, and even then it is probable that firms will need huge additional resources in integration and customisation.
So who's next for the IMS phone M&A mill? Ecrio? Movial? Nable? If I was a player in this space, I'd start thinking more about all the other clever things that could be done with SIP-enabled phones apart from IMS applications, and which won't be tied to the glacial pace of IMS handset standards development.
(For more details on IMS-capable handsets, see here for details of Disruptive Analysis' recent report on the topic, authored by yours truly)
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