In October of 2007 I speculated, out loud via this blog, as to whether or not WLAN infrastructure vendor Trapeze was for sale. While I don’t claim to be a fortune teller (yes, RSS feeds and briefing sessions have, in large part, replaced my standard-issue analyst crystal ball) and it was no secret that the company was, at least intermittently, being shopped, it was with a bit of surprise that I greeted the news of Belden being the confirmed buyer. At $133 million in cash, there is some debate on whether the value of the transaction is consummate with the value of the goods. Given the delayed IPOs as the relatively steep slide ARUN has taken since its post-IPO high in July 2007, it’s likely $133M is a fair valuation — I’ll leave that question to the ‘Street analysts,’ you know, the analysts that still use crystal balls.
While rumored in advance of the acquisition itself, I had truly imagined a more WLAN- or at least mobility-focused vendor being the potential buyer, a late-term dark horse in the race for Trapeze. Nortel, of course, would have been a reasonable contender given their on-again, off-again WLAN gear development partnership and resales agreement with Trapeze.
I’m not as dire as some competitors of Trapeze on the news, however, I am not sure how the Belden organization will continue to foster the development and marketing of some relatively innovative WLAN infrastructure and management products (RingMaster is a product that routinely is singled as a favorite by users I speak to when discussing WLAN management products). I suppose that time will tell, however, treating the products as simply a line extension and not a separate, standalone suite upon which to continue innovating would be a shame to see.
In the short-term, the impact of this acquisition on WLAN current customers of Trapeze is not likely to be very major; products will continue to exist and the RingMaster team is a large and influential group within Trapeze — innovation here will not dry up without some missteps by Belden. Those organizations that may be mulling a move to .11n with Trapeze are likely to revisit their vendor short-lists, given what is likely to be viewed as an uncertain future for less established products, from an innovation standpoint.
By Chris Silva
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