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18 April 2014

Zebra, Motorola, and the Internet-of-Things Reality


What is Happening?

This week Zebra Technologies, a $1B maker of RFID devices, sensors, barcode scanners, and other asset identification and protection devices and systems, announced plans to acquire the Enterprise business (including the Symbol business unit) of Motorola Solutions to, as stated on the Zebra website:

"…combine the complementary offerings of two industry leaders in asset tracking solutions to create a market leader in enterprise asset intelligence for the Connected Age. Motorola Solutions’ mobile platform captures real-time data about physical assets, people, and transactions across the enterprise. Zebra’s enabling technologies provide visibility into business operations for deeper insights and smarter decision-making. The companies’ shared commitment to innovation will help customers harness powerful technology trends like the Internet of Things (IoT), location and motion sensing and mobile enterprise cloud computing."

On the surface, this appears to be yet another conceptual IoT play, helping to illustrate the scope of “things” that can be, will be, and are being interconnected to enable more business data, insight, and improvement. The total acquisition price is put at $3.5B – to date, one of the larger investments or acquisitions in the name of the “internet of things.” Zebra is borrowing more than $3B to make it happen, and only putting up about $200M on its own – expecting significantly increased revenue to pay off the deal in as little as three years.

Given that the two firms combined right now average about $3.5B in annual sales, that’s a big bet on the future of the IoT, especially in the relatively mundane-but-huge, and increasingly competitive, enterprise asset management marketplace. That kind of wager typically implies that either spending is getting out of hand in a bubbling market, or – more likely in this case – that  even the most traditional technology and services providers see significant and immediate promise in otherwise ordinary markets, and are willing to put big money where the promise lies.

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Additional Info

  • Document Number: 1357RA
  • Document Type: Research Alert
  • Research Category: Digital Business / Cloud Business, Cloud IT, IT Vendors
  • Author: Bruce Guptill, Ron Exler
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Bruce Guptill

Senior Vice President and Head of Research
Falmouth, MA

Saugatuck SVP and Head of Research Bruce Guptill’s research and expertise focus on the changing business of IT includes software and services, collaborative IT, web commerce, telecom, and electronic marketplaces. His work for enterprise IT and business clients includes total cost of IT ownership, and business planning for new types of IT. And his insight and guidance on IT vendor channel management, market identification and development, and buyer behavior analysis has enabled hundreds of established and startup IT providers to find, enter, and profit from new and traditional markets, while helping to guide user enterprise leaders toward optimal IT procurement and vendor management.

In addition to multiple decades of IT industry and market strategy development, Guptill holds an MBA in marketing and finance, and a BA in the psychology and business of mass media communication. Married with three children, Guptill resides on Cape Cod in southeastern Massachusetts, and is a lifelong fan of the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, and the University of Connecticut Huskies.