The acquisition will vault, of Redwood City, Calif., past Good Technologies and firmly into second place behind in supplying cell phone access to work e-mail, said Seven Chairman Bill Nguyen. Financial details of the planned acquisition--Seven's first--weren't disclosed.
Smartner supplies wireless messaging through dozens of major cell phone operators in more than a dozen European nations, and the combined entity will work with 45 major operator partners. Both Seven and Smartner are privately held.
Seven is looking for growth overseas partly because Research In Motion's BlackBerry has gobbled up much of the U.S. market for mobile office e-mail. Seven's U.S. market share, through partnerships with Cingular Wireless and Sprint, ranks around second place and is neck-and-neck with rival Good Technologies.
Seven first managed to create a foothold, some years ago, in Asia to supply premium e-mail to handsets through NTT DoCoMo and KDDI in Japan and through SingTelGroup in Singapore.
Europe is next, representing great promise and peril for any newcomer. Seven's $10- to $20-a-month premium messaging service will compete with scores of other more-established competitors, but the payoff may be huge. The average European cell phone consumer is apt to use premium messaging services.
"You can't be a successful contender to RIM if you don't have a global view," Nguyen said. "We didn't want to risk developing our own service; Americans don't really understand other cell phone markets. The BlackBerry in Japan makes no sense."