One message was crystal clear at Comdex Chicago last week: Lucrative opportunities in wireless and mobile computing are already out there,and on the rise,for solution providers of all sizes.
Voyage Data, for one, made margins of almost 50 percent in developing a wireless solution for George Washington University Hospital in Washington, said Paul Jones, president of the Pensacola, Fla.-based solution provider. The system allows doctors to use PDAs to access patient information right from the bedside.
Steve Kincade, vice president and general manager at Research In Motion (RIM), said solution providers can rake in profits by selling the Blackberry 5810, a customizable PDA that combines
e-mail, phone and contact management applications.
"What do you think solution providers make selling a PC?" Kincade said. "Qualified solution providers can make $100 to $150 on each Blackberry. And that's just for the device. That doesn't include all the other revenue streams like software, servers, maintenance, memory, help desk, training and other services. What integrators can make on a solution is huge. The market will continue to feed itself."
Sisinio and Jessica Baldis, owners of Sapien Systems, a mobile computing provider in San Diego, wouldn't disagree. The husband-and-wife team runs a 10-person shop that develops wearable computers for NASA.
The NASA system enables astronauts to send and receive information to and from earth. Although the contract calls for only five systems, it has helped Sapien create a solution it can resell to the general market. Sapien already has lined up deals to build similar systems for the Navy and a large private company.
"Our plan works for small companies because it gets your foot in the door," she said. "There are also larger companies that need a specialty but have to farm it out to smaller solution providers."
Sapien also serves as an example of how a solution provider can break into a market with little capital,and some imagination. Baldis and her husband culled their contacts from the Human Interface Technology Laboratory at the University of Washington in Seattle and searched government Web sites to find out what IT solutions were in demand. The Small Business Administration then funded their project with a federal Innovation Research grant.