Nokia + Microsoft = Love?

Contact: Brenon Daly

Maybe it’s the fact that today is Valentine’s Day and love is in the air, but we’ve been thinking about the recent closeness of Nokia and Microsoft in a whole new way. Recall that the Finnish handset maker said on Friday that it’ll be basically breaking up with its own OS to start dating Windows Phone. ‘You’re just not doing it for me anymore,’ the hardware told the software before also asking Symbian to clean its stuff out of their previously shared house. ‘Don’t forget your toothbrush.’

By dumping its longtime partner, Nokia has cleared the way for a new relationship with Microsoft, which looks like a compatible union to our eyes. After all, both giants are on a slow fade right now, largely watching while the rest of the mobile industry passes them by. (To put that into human terms, we can’t help but envision Nokia and Microsoft as a somewhat elderly couple, more likely to watch On Golden Pond (on VHS, no less) than to head out to the theater and catch The Social Network, for instance.)

Have these companies truly been struck by Cupid’s arrow? Is the ‘strategic alliance’ just a bit of handholding before a proper marriage? Well, from our view, an acquisition – although still unlikely – is less unlikely than before. Why? For one thing, the block to this long-rumored pairing has always been that Microsoft wouldn’t want to jeopardize its relationships with other device makers by settling fully on Nokia.

But frankly, that’s less of a concern now if only because Windows Phone has been left behind, even by hardware makers that have long relied on Microsoft for software to power their computers. For instance, Dell has largely embraced Google’s rival OS, Android, for its tablets. And Hewlett-Packard went out and dropped $1bn on Palm Inc to have its own OS for devices rather than continue to run Microsoft’s mobile OS. Given that many of its former partners have already paired off, maybe Microsoft believes the time is now to tie up with Nokia, for better and for worse.

Cavium’s quick moves on MontaVista

Contact: Brenon Daly, Jay Lyman

It was hardly surprising when embedded OS vendor MontaVista Software got snapped up earlier this week. In fact, my colleague Jay Lyman put MontaVista at the top of his hit list for targets in the market in his report back in August. After all, the company was a pioneer of the embedded space and was a clear leader among startups chasing this opportunity. MontaVista was running at about $30m in sales, and we understand that the vendor was targeting $40m and a few million dollars in profit in 2010. What did surprise some observers (including us, to some extent) was the buyer: Cavium Networks. Cavium will pay $50m ($16m in cash, $34m in equity) for MontaVista.

Along with much of the market, we expected IBM to reach for MontaVista as a way to match Intel’s acquisition of Wind River in June. Wind River stands as the giant in the embedded OS sector with revenue about 10 times higher than MontaVista. In a rather uncharacteristic transaction for Intel, the chipmaker paid $884m for Wind River. Several sources indicated that Big Blue, which was a heavy user of Wind River software for its embedded Power chip business, was the cover bidder for the company. Whether or not that’s the case, we understand that IBM’s interest in MontaVista was fitful and ultimately hinged on Big Blue being able to cobble together a coalition of other processor providers. As that effort dragged on, we understand that Cavium moved quickly and wrapped up the deal in about a month.