Voice,data net start-ups become buyout fodder

Can anyone possibly keep all the back-end telecomm deals straight? Start-ups specialising in voice- or data-networking have been striking it rich with telecomm and networking sugar daddies.

Cisco kicked off the day by buying GeoTel, which makes call-centre software, for $US2 billion in stock. Sweden-based Ericsson bought both Torrent Technologies, which makes advanced switches, and Touchwave, a maker of phones that use IP technology. And Canada-based Nortel chimed in with the purchase of Shasta Networks, a data-networking company.

But what does it all mean? Most outlets were relatively sparse on analysis, but the New York Times' Seth Schiesel tried to do it in 25 words or less: "[Tuesday's] four deals were the latest salvos in a battle that is sure to pit young networking companies reared on the Internet against decades-old telephone giants for years to come."

The San Jose Mercury News' Monua Janah said "it's a good time to be a small to mid-size company specialising in a niche of computer-network or phone technology, as a nearly $3 billion spate of takeovers [showed on Tuesday]."

Janah focused on the biggest takeover, involving Cisco and GeoTel, noting that it was Cisco's first major move into voice technology -- and the first big software buy for the equipment maker.

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