HP will acquire Bitfone to boost iPAQ line

Hewlett-Packard moved to strengthen its line of iPAQ handhelds on Wednesday by announcing a plan to acquire Bitfone, a developer of software applications that allow cell-phone manufacturers to manage wireless mobile devices.

HP will use Bitfone to offer its business customers a better way to manage the cost and security of their mobile IT deployments, according to a statement by Dave Rothschild, vice president of the handheld business unit in the personal systems group at HP.

This is the third acquisition by HP in recent months. The company closed its US$4.5 billion acquisition of Mercury Interactive in November, and announced in September it would buy VoodooPC, a high-end PC gaming vendor.

HP said it plans to integrate Bitfone's 134 employees into its personal systems group, but did not reveal the price it had agreed to pay for the privately held firm based in Laguna Niguel, California. The deal is expected to close by February 2007.

Bitfone's products include mProve, an application used by handheld device makers to upgrade software on mobile devices remotely, and FusionDM, a server-based software tool that enables wireless operators to manage their subscribers' accounts. Bitfone customers include wireless operators such as T-Mobile USA and SK Telecom Co., semiconductor makers like Freescale Semiconductor and Qualcomm, and handheld manufacturers like Motorola and Samsung Electronics Co.

Some of Bitfone's customers make devices that compete with HP's iPAQ handheld, but HP did not say whether it planned to continue selling them software after the acquisition. Other handheld manufacturers currently using Bitfone software include Palm, Kyocera, LG Electronics and Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications, among others. HP's iPAQ devices use Microsoft's Windows Mobile OS to provide phone service, mobile e-mail, global positioning satellite navigation and digital photography.

In a similar move, Motorola said in November it would acquire Good Technology, the software firm that provides mobile e-mail applications on Motorola's Q smartphone and many competing devices. So far, Motorola has continued to support those other platforms.

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