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July 14, 1998


By CBR Staff Writer

Motorola Inc, which claims to sell half the wireless electronics devices in the world, has acquired wireless software synching software specialist Starfish Software Inc. Motorola picked up privately held Starfish just before it was due to file for an initial public offering, according to Starfish chief executive Philippe Kahn. Starfish made its name with the tiny Rex credit card sized computer, built for it by the Citizen Watch Co and marketed under the Rolodex brand name by Franklin Electronics Publishers Inc (CI No 3,270). But Motorola, which first made a strategic investment in the company on October last year (CI No 3,273) has its eye on Starfish’s TrueSync software, which is designed to synchronize information in address books, calendars and notes among portable devices such as pagers, wireless phones and personal communicator products. And Motorola said that some of its new digital products to be launched on July 21 will incorporate technology from its year long collaboration with Starfish. Motorola is betting its fortunes on its new range of phones, which it hopes will rejuvenate its ailing cellular products business. The deal between the two companies was clinched in under 30 days, said Motorola president and chief operating officer Robert Growney, adding that there will be minimal impact on Motorola’s bottom line. Recent weakness in the IPO market may have led Kahn to calculate that acquisition was a better way to maximize Starfish’s value. Kahn formed Starfish in 1995 after he was ousted from the CEO position at Borland International Inc, the software development tools company he founded. He took with him the program that first brought Borland its fame and fortune, the Sidekick scheduler pop-up program, and from that fashioned the TruSync operating system and set of micro applications. General Magic Inc has licensed the technology, and Starfish has worked with 3Com Corp’s Palm Computing division to get the software working on the Palm Pilot. As to the structure of the deal, neither of the two companies disclosed its exact value, but Kahn said he was happy to receive the Motorola stock, which was hit hard after Motorola warned of its worst quarter ever in June. Starfish will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Motorola, reporting as part of the Communications Enterprise division, and Philippe Kahn also becomes a key advisor to the office of the CEO, the top management committee of Motorola controlled by Motorola chief Christopher Galvin and COO Bob Growney. Kahn gave no information on future product plans, merely saying that Starfish would continue to look to refine wireless hardware and software. Kahn said existing relationships would not be affected by the acquisition.

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