AOL Wireless

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AOL Wireless

AOL is breaking into the wireless space via their Wildseed, Ltd. acquisition, a provider of advanced wireless technologies and is also forming an expanded AOL Wireless division. It's an innovative technology that uses a small chip embedded on a SmartSkin which you simply snap onto your mobile phone. However, as far as I can tell, their "SmartSkin" technology only works with specific mobile phones made by Curitel, a Korean-based mobile phone manufacturer, but according to their website, they are looking for more mobile partners.

This acquisition certainly fits AOL's "provide the best or unique content" mantra. (though that is debatable). AOL can no longer rest on their laurels as being the easiest to install "dummy proof" Internet access medium - they need to diversify. In the days of dial-up, AOL was so successful because they mailed those damn CDs and made it so that even your grandparents could get online without any help. But with broadband's "instant on plug-n-play access" eating at the dial-up pie, fast and easy installation to access the Internet is no longer applicable.

In any case, Wildseed was founded in June 2000 and is based in Kirkland, Washington, with offices in London, UK. The company is best known for its SmartSkin interactive accessories, which ran on its debut product, the Curitel Identity handset. Wildseed's technologies provide a mobile Linux-based Operating System solution, which includes support for Game Boy Advanced style games, MP3 and Video playback, remote device management, and a fully 'skinnable' User Interface for delivering both branded and themed user experiences. Many of the components that form Wildseed's mobile Linux solution can be sold separately to non-Linux based feature phones.

"Data-related mobile technologies are on the cusp of mainstream adoption. We see it everyday in the explosive growth of our mobile AIM traffic. The wireless industry is focused on bringing additional rich media experiences and a new generation of interactive services to the mobile consumer, and we are committed to being a leader in that arena," said John McKinley, Chief Technology Officer and President, Digital Services, America Online, Inc. "With the combination of Tegic and Wildseed, we can offer our carrier and OEM partners the best-in-class platform they need to deliver these rich and engaging mobile experiences and help drive innovation and growth in the industry."

The expanded AOL Wireless division, which encompasses the AOL Mobile, Tegic and Wildseed groups, will speed the delivery of community and convenience to mobile users with an array of software solutions, communications and content services supported by the top wireless carriers and handset manufacturers.

AOL Wireless will be led by Craig Eisler, General Manager & Senior Vice President, AOL Wireless, America Online, Inc. Wildseed employees and operations will be integrated into AOL's current Seattle offices and Wildseed's CEO Eric Engstrom will become AOL Wireless' Senior Vice President, Wireless Products.

"Wildseed's advanced technologies will help AOL enhance the value of its wireless properties, and speed the development and deployment of new applications and solutions that address the wants and needs of consumers and carriers," said Craig Eisler. "We are extremely excited to welcome the Wildseed team into AOL Wireless and look forward to working with our carrier and OEM partners to deliver innovative services and must-have content to their subscribers."

The Wildseed transaction is AOL's second major corporate acquisition in 2005 - since AOL's purchase of Xdrive, Inc. was announced last week. AOL also acquired Mailblocks, Inc. and Advertising.com in the summer of 2004. Financial terms of the deal with Wildseed were not disclosed. The company was previously privately held.



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