SEVEN Feels Lucky with IPO

SEVEN Networks is joining the growing number of IT firms seeking a successful IPO.

The Redwood City, Calif.-based firm this week filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for an offering of its common stock. The filing gave no details about the number of shares to be tendered or the amount of money the company hopes to accrue.

The company makes software that lets mobile network operators provide wireless e-mail services for businesses and consumers. Customers include Cingular, Sprint and NTT DoCoMo. A VAR agreement with Hewlett-Packard Australia, announced on Thursday, is expected to provide the company with entree into the hot Asia Pacific region. SEVEN referenced analyst reports that the region will yield a total of $19 billion in annual revenue for advanced mobile data services, and contribute a 40 percent share of the world market by 2005.

To bolster the news, the company on Thursday announced that it had hired a co-CEO, Kent Thexton, to work alongside founder, chairman and (now) co-CEO Bill Nguyen. Thexton provides carrier-side experience, with management stints at O2, Rogers Wireless, Northern Telecom and Bell Canada on his resume.

But the yen for mobile e-mail is not at all clear, said Jupiter Research analyst Avi Greengart. Letting the carriers be mobile e-mail providers makes a lot of sense, Greengart said, because individual users won’t take the time to set it up.

“But the demand isn’t there.” In a recent, unpublished Jupiter survey asking about barriers to deployment and return on investment, he found that, “The demand isn’t there. IT managers scared of this. They don’t want to hand out expensive devices on insecure networks.” Greengart said that the most highly visible provider of mobile e-mail services, Research in Motion , only has around a million users, with Redwood City, Calif.-based Visto and SEVEN having even fewer.

In February, Visto inked a deal with Microsoft to jointly promote and market its Visto Mobile Personal Edition mobile e-mail and personal information management product to mobile operators. It’s also an infrastructure partner in PalmSource’s Palm Powered MobileWorld program.

Last September, Visto announced that it had filed a patent infringement suit against SEVEN and Infowave, another mobile enterprise application vendor. Visto claimed SEVEN violated two patents relating to the synchronization of workspace elements across a network. According to company materials, SEVEN claims that it was never served with a copy of the suit. A SEVEN spokesperson said she could not make any statements about the company, because it is in the quiet period following SEC registration for an IPO.

But Greengart affirmed that there was an eventual business opportunity for these companies. “You’re likely to see reasonable amounts of consolidation around two or three big players,” he said. “Based in their carrier relationships, SEVEN is likely to be one of them.”

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