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3Com Trades Networking for B2B

After years focusing on the consumer market, 3Com Corp. Monday unveiled plans to target the enterprise market through a series of partnerships.

3Com (COMS) is stepping out of its role as a high-end networking firm, and will instead develop a Web-enabled network infrastructure, as well as solutions based on the IP telephony, wireless, broadband and Gigabit Ethernet.

Specifically, the company will roll out a new set of network appliances for the company's SuperStack product line. It will focus these technologies on small and medium-sized businesses, as well as selected large accounts, principally those with distributed networking environments.

3Com also acquired Call Technologies Inc., a maker of unified messaging software, for approximately $90 million and made a $20 million investment in CAIS Internet.

The company also announced a series of partnerships to develop its B2B products and services. It will integrate Inktomi Corp.'s (INKT) technology, which includes automated, high performance Web-caching and content distribution, into SuperStack appliances. New 3Com appliances will also include Internet firewall and virtual private network technology from SonicWall, Inc., as well as load balancing technology from F5 Networks, Inc.

The company will also work with Apropos Technology and Symbol Technologies to create LAN telephony and wireless services, and will work with Copper Mountain Networks to provide DSL technology to its enterprises.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

The partnerships were all made to expand 3Com's products and services to business customers, the company said.

"3Com built its brand on simplifying complex technology," said Edgar Masri, 3Com senior vice president and general manager. "We will focus on markets where 3Com has clear product advantages, great brand recognition, strong worldwide distribution channels and established leadership positions."

3Com is the latest company to catch the B2B bug. On Monday, megaportal Yahoo! Corp. (YHOO) introduced a B2B marketplace, and other industry players such as Dell Computer Corp. (DELL) and Ariba, Inc. (ARBA) last week formed a partnership to provide business-to-business e-commerce Dell customers.