News due from Dell, wireless sync vendor Good Technology

A blue postcard distributed by Dell Computer Corp. and Good Technology Inc. to journalists Wednesday offers a tantalizing hint at “an important news announcement” scheduled for next Tuesday. The prospect of Dell’s fast-growing Axim handhelds married to Good Technology’s wireless synchronization service could boost enterprise adoption for both products, analysts said.

Dell and Good offered no other details on the announcement, except that “April 29 is going to be a very big day.” How big a day it will be depends on whether Dell simply intends to announce a licensing deal with Good, or whether it has designs on investing in the company, said Alex Slawsby, an analyst with IDC in Framingham, Massachusetts.

Good Technology’s wireless e-mail and calendar synchronization service builds on one created by Research in Motion Ltd. (RIM), makers of the BlackBerry handheld used by many business professionals. The BlackBerry allows users to send and receive e-mail and calendar information wirelessly over GSM/GPRS (Global System for Mobile Communication/General Packet Radio Service) networks. Good’s GoodLink service also does this for BlackBerry handhelds, but allows users to wirelessly update task lists without having to physically hook the device up to a PC through a cradle.

“If it’s true that Dell and Good are putting something together, it reinforces the idea of how important two-way handheld communication is,” said Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies Inc. in Campbell, California.

Dell’s Axim handhelds have sold well since their introduction in November, according to figures from IDC. But for sales to grow among enterprise customers, Dell needs to offer some type of messaging service with its handhelds to compete against resellers of the BlackBerry service such as Hewlett-Packard Co., Slawsby said.

RIM offers both the hardware and the service to BlackBerry users, while Good’s Good100 handheld has not attracted as much interest as the GoodLink wireless service, Slawsby said. A deal to bring Good’s service to a popular handheld would increase the number of distribution outlets through which Good could sell its service, he said.

With the press event scheduled at fabled Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield, & Byers’ headquarters in Menlo Park, California, speculation mounted that Dell would announce a substantial investment or the acquisition of Good Technology. The venture capital firm is a lead investor in Good Technology, which is based in Sunnyvale, California.

“I would be surprised if Dell bought Good outright, but I would not be surprised if they put a big investment in them,” Slawsby said.

But one industry analyst who declined to be named downplayed speculation that the Round Rock, Texas, company would invest in Good, saying that Good “is not hurting for money.”

The two companies will more likely announce a partnership that will evolve over time, he said. “Good is not really interested in building hardware, Dell has the people to build the hardware for them, it makes a lot of sense for these guys to get together,” he said.

RIM, based in Waterloo, Ontario, and Good have tangled in the courtroom over patent infringement charges. RIM alleges that a former executive from Cingular Wireless LLC, a RIM partner, brought confidential information about RIM’s products to Good Technology when he joined that company. RIM has also alleged that Good Technology illegally copied and distributed RIM’s operating system code from software development kits, allowing Good to produce a product similar to the BlackBerry.