Vivato, RIP

Sic transit gloria... This is a sad day: WLAN antenna (or, as the company called it, "WiFi switch") innovator Vivato is shutting down. The following message was posted two days ago on the company's Web site: "This difficult decision was deemed by Vivato to be in the best interest of creditors, shareholders and customers, based upon the Company's projection of its future results."

Vivato came on the scene in 2002 with a splash and a $20 million from confident VCs (it would raise $65 million in total). The confidence was not unfounded. Vivato offered an innovative way to overcome one of WiFi's major problems--its short range. Typically WLANs work by blanketing an area with a cloud of signals, allowing everyone within that cloud to communicate to the Internet. Vivato, on the other hand, directed individual beams to individual users, and the beam "followed" the user as he or she walked about within a much larger area than the blanket approach would allow. The company built smart phased-array antennas with a patented PacketSteering technology. Its antennas were futuristic in design and wall-mounted -- they looked like a big flat-screen TV. The company soon created an outdoor version of the antenna which could be mounted on a wall of a building and beam signal to an entire floor in a building across the street. The company also developed microcell APs to provide lower-cost coverage for indoors.

Vivato's commercial success never matched its technological promise. I remember a visit by Phil Belanger (now with BelAir Networks) to our offices to present the young company's products. During the presentation I was thinking--and gave expression to this thought--that the price Vivato was charging was too high. For example, last year the company released its 802.11g-supporting VP2210 antenna which was priced at nearly $10,000. It was not only the high price of its products; the company experienced management turmoil, and was also squeezed by the emergence of WiMax and the advent of mesh networking, both of which also address WiFi's range problem.

Vivato said it is now in the process of trying to sell its intellectual property. It also said it is offering an end-of-life sale of its remaining inventory, but warned potential buyers that it would no longer offer support for the products.

-for more on Vivato's demise
-see John Cook's Seattle.pi report

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