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O.C. BUSINESS PLUS

Smith Micro Division to Focus on Cameras, Phones

Technology: New products expected quickly. Stock surges for Aliso Viejo company.

March 03, 2000|P.J. HUFFSTUTTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Continuing its push to diversify, Smith Micro Software Inc. unveiled a new division Thursday that will create products and services for companies that make cellular phones, digital cameras and high-speed modems.

The news sent the Aliso Viejo company's stock rocketing nearly 81% to $8.13 a share in mid-day trading before settling down to close at $6.19 a share, up $1.69 over Wednesday's close.

Officials expect the unit, which draws together 30 employees from the company's overall staff of 100, to begin rolling out products for digital cell phones and other wireless devices within the next week. The company already has several software products on the market that work with cable modems.

The company named W. Rick Wyand, 52, as general manager of the newly formed unit. Previously, Wyand was general manager of the company's Macintosh division. Robert E. Elliott, 48, succeeds Wyand.

"Going forward, we expect [the new unit] to represent about 40% of our revenues, with our e-commerce group making up about 35% and our Macintosh group about 25%," said William Smith, the company's president.

Smith Micro's fourth-quarter loss grew by 44% and its annual loss more than tripled to $6.1 million. While sales dropped 7% in the quarter, they rose 5% to $10.7 million last year.

Despite the losses, investors believe the company is turning itself around.

The company has enjoy a steady rise on the stock market in the last several months. The bullish response comes after Smith Micro's entry into the electronic-commerce arena in September, the launch of its Linux product in November and its strong position in the Macintosh segment.

In January, the company's stock jumped 57% in one day after Smith Micro released a new program that allows Apple computer owners to make telephone calls over the Internet and Macintosh software for building online stores.

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