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Puma jumps on NetMind buy

Puma Technology, which makes software for managing mobile devices, says it will buy NetMind Technologies, sending the company's stock upward.

Puma Technology, which makes software for managing mobile devices, said today it is acquiring NetMind Technologies, sending the company's stock upward as the wireless juggernaut continues.

NetMind, which counts eBay, Boeing and IBM among its corporate customers, produces software which notifies a mobile device of changes to Web pages or databases, and allows users to conduct transactions from those devices.

For instance, the company's software allows eBay customers to monitor Web-based auctions on pagers and can allow them to purchase products from two-way mobile devices.

Analysts are optimistic about Puma's prospects, because NetMind gives the company a more complete e-commerce strategy at a time when companies are looking to offer consumers more wireless and mobile data services.

Puma's stock rose 8 percent today to 82.

International Data Corp. predicts that by 2002, there will be more than 55 million handheld and notebook-style information devices, and Forrester Research estimates that by 2003, there will be 600 million phones that can connect to the Internet, all of which represent potential ecommerce opportunities.

"This acquisition allows [Puma] to offer a more complete wireless and mobile infrastructure system to their customers," said John Todd, communications industry analyst with CE Unterberg, Towbin.

With Puma's data synchronization technology, the e-commerce technology from NetMind and the technology for rendering Web pages on handhelds from the August acquisition of ProxiNet, Todd thinks Puma is poised to become the next Phone.com or Broadvision.

Phone.com is a provider of software that enables cell phones to access Internet-based data and services. Its stock has soared more than sevenfold, and the company is valued at almost $9 billion on revenues of only $8.5 million for its most recently completed quarter. Todd has set a 12-month target price for Puma shares at $200, which is more than double its current price.

"Finally, the computer software community has recognized that wireless could be a moneymaker. That's why you are seeing Microsoft, Oracle and Sun get into this," said Alan Reiter, president of Wireless Internet & Mobile Computing, a consultancy. Microsoft, for examples, just yesterday formed a joint venture with cellular equipment provider Ericsson to develop products that provide fast access to the Internet from any device.

Puma's core synchronization technology--which automatically updates and shares data across a range of devices such as a personal computer, pager, cell phone or a handheld computer--will eventually become a commodity, he said, so they needed to branch out into areas where customers are willing to pay for their technology.

Access to corporate data is one such area. NetMind's software can send a notification to a salesperson's cell phone or pager of a change in a product price--that's data that can pay off for companies, Reiter said, and they are willing to invest in software that lets them save money in the long run.

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