The recent news that Sprint and Clearwire are back in talks for some form of WiMAX joint venture revealed an interesting potential minority partner – Best Buy. Conventional thinking suggests that Best Buy is interested in a joint Sprint/Clearwire WiMAX effort in the hopes that it fuels a surge in demand for consumer electronics devices that will connect to the WiMAX network. Best Buy would love to fill their stores with eager buyers of said equipment. But they may have a more interesting motive as well.
Best Buy purchased Speakeasy in 2007, indicating their interest in the service provider market. Perhaps Best Buy is looking to expand their role as either a service provider themselves, or to ensure their service provider subsidiary has a WiMAX path. Speakeasy is squarely focused on the small and medium business market with traditional wireline products right now. But I’m sure they would welcome a viable WiMAX solution to broaden their scope and appeal. The future may see an opportunity for small businesses to interact with Best Buy and be offered a completely integrated and bundled communications package, including equipment, connectivity, and applications. Having a minority role in a nationwide WiMAX network only strengthens this possibility and it’s potential impact on the competitive landscape.