The company's network software products included:
3Com's expansion beyond its original base of PC and thin Ethernet products began in 1987 when it merged with Bridge Communications. This provided a range of equipment based on Motorola 68000 processors and using XNS protocols compatibly with 3Com's Etherterm PC software.
The modem business was rapidly shrinking. 3Com attempted to enter the DSL business, but was not successful.
In March 2000, with stiff competition from Cisco, 3Com exited the high-end router business, upsetting its larger corporate customers.
In the server Network interface card business, the more lucrative part of the NIC business, 3Com remained second in market share, after Intel. 3Com never managed to beat Intel with its own products or even with joint ventures with Broadcom. It started developing Gigabit Ethernet cards in-house but later scrapped the plans. Later, it formed a joint venture with Broadcom, where Broadcom would develop the main ASIC component and the NIC would be 3Com branded. The venture fell apart some time later and 3Com no longer had the talent to pursue Gigabit Ethernet on its own.
In 1999 3Com acquired NBX, a Boston company with an Ethernet-based phone system for small and medium sized businesses. This product proved popular with 3Com's existing distribution channel and saw rapid growth and adoption. As one of the first companies to deliver a complete networked phone system, and increased its distribution channel with larger telephony partners such as Southwestern Bell and Metropark Communications, 3Com helped make VoIP into a safe and practical technology with wide adoption.
3Com tried to move into the smart consumer appliances business and on June 2000, 3Com acquired internet radio startup Kerbango for US$80 million. It developed its Audrey appliance, which made an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show. It scrapped the Audrey and Kerbango products less than a year later.
In January 2001, Bruce Claflin became Chief Executive Officer, replacing Eric Benhamou, CEO from 1990 to 2000. He was criticized for the costly diversification in the mobile handheld computer market. At this point, the company's main cash-cow, the Network interface card business, was also shrinking rapidly, mainly because the functionality was integrated into the southbridge chipset. The company started slashing or selling divisions and going through numerous phases of RIFs. The company went from employing more than 12,000 employees to fewer than 2,000.
In July 2000, 3Com spun-off Palm as an independent company. After the IPO, 3Com still owned 80% of Palm but 3Com's market capitalization was smaller than Palm's. U.S. Robotics was also spun out again as a separate company at this time.
In May 2003, the company left its Silicon Valley Santa Clara headquarters for Marlborough, Massachusetts. It also formed a venture with Huawei whereby 3Com will sell and rebrand products under the joint venture.
In 2003, 3Com sold its CommWorks Corporation subsidiary to UTStarcom, Inc. The CommWorks subsidiary was based in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, and developed wireline telecommunications and wireless infrastructure technologies.
In January 2006, Bruce Claflin announced he will be leaving the company. In the summer, Edgar Masri returned to 3Com to head as President and CEO.
Note: As of February 2006, the Santa Clara location will be downsized and then eventually closed before the end of 2006.
CommWorks Corporation was a wholly-owned subsidiary company of 3Com Corporation. It was formerly the Carrier Network Business unit of 3Com, comprised of several acquired companies: U.S. Robotics (Rolling Meadows, Illinois), Call Technologies (Reston, Virginia), and LANsource (Toronto, Canada). CommWorks was able to use technology from each company to create IP softswitch and IP communications software. U.S. Robotics provided media gateways (the Total Control 1000 product line, formerly used for dial-modem termination) and softswitch technology. Call Technologies provided Unified Messaging software. LANsource provided fax-over-IP software that was integrated with the Unified Messaging platform.
The Carrier Network Business unit of 3Com developed an IWF solution which became the first and dominant 2G CDMA wireless data gateway product. In partnership with Unwired Planet (now Openwave) and Qualcomm Quicknet connect was launched allowing for a breakthrough of 6 second connect times versus the standard solution which required modems to connect the call (approximately 30+ seconds). This product solution was deployed successfully throughout the United States, Japan, and Korea covering the 2G CDMA market sample carriers included Sprint. It led to follow on products that became core to CommWorks now UTStarcom offerings including the 2.5 and 3G packet data gateway products known as PDSN and Home Agents.
CommWorks/3Com co-developed an H.323-based softswitch with AT&T in 1998 for use in a "transparent trunking" application for AT&T's residential long-distance customers. In this solution, long distance telephone calls were redirected from the LEC's ingress CLASS 5 switch to the Total Control 1000 media gateway, where it was converted from TDM to IP and transported across AT&T's WorldNet IP backbone. When it reached the destination, it was passed to the egress LEC's CLASS 5 switch as an untariffed data call.
CommWorks modified the gateway and softswitch software to support SIP for MCI/WorldCom's hosted business offering in 2000.
Although 3Com sold CommWorks to UTStarcom, they retained intellectual property rights to the softswitch technology. After modifying the software to enable enterprise PBX features, 3Com released this technology as VCX, the industry's first pure SIP PBX, in 2003.