Companies to watch

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By  Published  November 17, 2006
Google #1

Now that Google has, pretty-much, total domination of the internet across the western world, it is finally turning its sights on emerging markets such as the Middle East.

This year the search engine giant announced plans to open three offices in the region over the next few months, responsible for developing a strategy to sign up Middle Eastern advertisers and users. Google wants to capitalise on the growth in search engine queries from Arabic speaking countries, a market that it thinks has significant potential. Markets Google has highlighted as being ripe to adopt search advertising to target international customers include the Middle East’s tourism industry in places such as Egypt and the UAE.

The company recently appointed ex-EMC and Sun Microsystems executive Sherif Iskandar to head its Middle East division, and is in the process of setting up an office in Cairo. Following that, the firm is also planning to establish regional offices in the UAE and Morocco — two countries from where it has seen internet usage rapidly increase.

du #2

It has been a busy year for new telecom provider du as it gears up for launch in the UAE.

The Emirates International Telecommunications Company, which unveiled its du brand in February, attracted huge attention when it listed on the Dubai Financial Market in spring and has been very much in the public eye ever since.

The company, which will be the UAE’s second telecom provider and challenger to incumbent Etisalat, has spent US$89.47million so far investing in the infrastructure needed to offer telecom, internet and cable-TV services. The operator has also started doing trials on WiMax wireless technology.

As well as laying the physical structure for its launch, which is scheduled to happen in December, du has also been attempting to raise its profile with customers through initiatives such as launching a training programme for graduates and sponsoring cartoon series Freej.

Competing with Etisalat will be no easy task but du CEO Osman Sultan says he is more than ready for the challenge and believes there is room for competition on the market.

Rim #3

The world’s biggest name in push e-mail finally arrived in the Middle East this year with Research In Motion (RIM) launching its BlackBerry handset in a number of countries in 2006 through its partner Emitac Mobile Solutions (EMS).

Etisalat was the first service provider to launch the BlackBerry mobile e-mail service in May, claiming it would redefine business mobility in the UAE. Etisalat said it fought for over two years to bring it to the region. National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD), Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB), Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), The National Investor (TNI), Emirates Airline and Etisalat itself had all been piloting the service for two months prior to the launch.

In September, Saudi Arabia’s Mobily became the next operator to jump on board the BlackBerry bandwagon following a pilot project similar to the one carried out in the UAE prior to the BlackBerry launch there.

A month later EMS announced it had struck a deal Bahrain’s Batelco to launch the hugely popular wireless devices in the Kingdom.

Opennet #4

With the take-up of open source software increasing in the Middle East, as it has been around the world, Opennet is well placed to capitalise on its expansion. The firm is the master distributor in the region for Red Hat — arguably the biggest name in Linux software — and provides a full range of consulting and professional services, assisting companies with the assessment, design, and implementation of Linux solutions.

Some of its services include project planning services and consultancy, migration and deployment, security auditing and configuration, high availability clustering, server consolidation and support services.

Opennet has already deployed Red Hat Enterprise Linux for UAE construction firm Arabtec on its e-mail server and on its DNS, proxy and firewall servers, and over the next year the distributor is likely to bag more deals like this as companies look to reduce costs.

Sphere #5

Networking solution provider Sphere Networks is a relatively new company, founded just a year ago, but one that is already creating a name for itself in the UAE. The firm, which develops enterprise management software to manage networks and security, won the coveted best newcomer prize in the recent Network Middle East Innovation Awards.

Sphere Networks is based in Dubai but has representation through partners in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Oman.

Targeting mid-size companies, particularly in the banking and government, the firm said it has already scored a number of important deals, but is so far keeping tight-lipped on the names of its clients.

Sphere Networks has a three-pronged growth strategy. Firstly, it plans to develop its product line from its current three products to six by 2007.

Secondly, it will be investing in human resources and increasing its number of developers to around 30 next year, and thirdly, as well as expanding in the region, the company is also looking to take its business to Europe and the US in the next couple of years.

Sphere Networks describes itself as a software development firm specialised in designing and development of leading-edge enterprise management solutions. The firm is 30% owned by Dubai Silicon Oasis.

Netgear #6

Networking kit vendor Netgear chose 2006 to shift its strategy for the Middle East up a gear. It made a major push in the region, setting up an office in Dubai six months ago and releasing a range of new networking solutions onto the market.

The operation has been a big success, according to the company. It says it now has around 70 customers in the region and by the end of 2006 will have done around US$8milion worth of deals. The firm plans to open a second office in the region in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by January. Netgear has 25 channel partners in the MENA region, including Emitac, which it signed in August, and Ashley, signed in July.

The vendor is promoting its range of products at value added resellers, direct market resellers and both traditional and online retailers in the region, specifically targeting the small and medium-sized business (SMB) sector.

WebMethods #7

US firm WebMethods has been active in the Middle East for about five years but is now seeking to step its business in the region up a level by setting up a dedicated office in the region.

The office, which is in the process of being opened now, will be located in Bahrain and will employ six staff as well as a number of technical account managers on site at various clients. The business integration software provider operates in the entire region with clients in Egypt, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Kuwait. Its largest client is Saudi Telecom Company.

WebMethods aims to expand its clientele and is particularly targeting the telecoms, finance, energy and government sectors. The firm said it is also strong in general supply chain and SOA governance that apply across multi-verticals.

IBT #8

Integrated Business Technologies (IBT) was established in 1993 and is based in the US with an office in Dubai Internet City (DIC). IBT provides information technology solutions for the distribution enterprise. IBT specialises in providing software, hardware and network integration solutions to wholesale distributors, manufacturers and supply-chain organisations.

The IBT service portfolio encompasses ERP software evaluation and implementation through custom application development and systems engineering. Its software services include Epicor Software implementation and support, WDS-II customisation, enhancements and migrations. They also include Progress Software programming and development, CorVu Software development, general database administration and system administration for all UNIX, Linux & Microsoft operating systems (OS).

IBT’s hardware and network services include integration and support across a variety of multi-vendor Unix, Linux, Intel and LAN/WAN based technology offerings including Data General, IBM, Hewlett Packard, Intel, SCO, Cisco, 3Com, and Micom.

It’s systems and network engineering services include evaluation, design, procurement, installation, performance analysis, tuning and maintenance.

East Meets West #9

Dubai-based communications and IT services provider East Meets West (EMW) is priming itself for growth in the Middle East. The regional firm is already doing quite well — it scooped the award for best-fixed network implementation for its work at the Burj Al Arab at this year’s Network Middle East Innovation Awards held in June.

A month later, it was appointed as a value added reseller for Avaya, complementing Avaya’s portfolio with its own extended range of services to deliver integrated call centre solutions.

Then in October, it was signed up by Trapeze Networks to distribute the networking firm’s product lines across the Middle East.

But the firm has its sights set on still bigger achievements — it has revealed it plans to triple its number of staff in the Middle East, currently 50, over the next 12 to 18 months to spur its growth in the region.

Operating in the convergence networking integration space for the past nine years, EMW says it has engineered, furnished and maintained converged networks for educational, health care, governmental, hospitality, banking and retail organisations around the world.

Potevio #10

Due to launch in the region this month, newcomer Potevio MENA is hoping to take the Middle East by storm.

The company — which is a joint venture between Potevio, formerly China Putian, a state-owned Chinese vendor, and Saudi investors — plans to introduce its end-to-end networking, telecommunications and consumer systems in the region.

It also hopes to bring its manufacturing capability to the Middle East in due course.

The vendor will herald its arrival with a strong presence at this month’s Gitex and GulfComms exhibitions where it will provide demonstrations of its products. Potevio describes itself as the baby in town even though it is very large outside the region. The firm said its first aim was to build its brand and support infrastructure.

The company plans to differentiate itself from its competitors by offering telcos the capability to produce their own branded handsets. Potevio has product lines covering the entire range of service provider and networking needs.

The vendor is also a major player in the OEM space.

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