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Optical/IP

Fast-Forward Through Mobility

One of the fascinating – and challenging – things about covering the technology industry is that everything moves in fast-forward. It's like watching one of those time-lapse films of clouds rushing across the sky, or flowers blooming in seconds. As soon as you think you've got your head around a given niche or industry or technology, things change. It's a Heraclitean world: All is in flux.

That's particularly true of the mobile email market at the moment. It's not just the legal troubles of Blackberry-maker BlackBerry , which could reach a head next week with the scheduled Feb. 24 hearing in the patent dispute case between RIM and NTP Software Inc. . It's the fact that this is still such a huge untapped market, with major players from all sides rushing into the fray. (See Mobile Email Monoculture Fades.)

Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) kicked off the big 3GSM World Congress, in Barcelona, by announcing new push email capabilities for its Windows Mobile 5.0 operating system. (See Microsoft Gets Pushy.) Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) has acquired mobile email software developer Intellisync Corp. (Nasdaq: SYNC) for close to $500 million. (See Nokia Wraps Up Intellisync Buy.) HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ) is releasing its new iPAQ hw6900 mobile phone, with email capability (running on Windows Mobile). Good Technology Inc. has announced a series of partnerships that support its GoodLink service, a rival to Blackberry. There's even an open-source mobile email solution: Funambol Inc. last week released its v.3 software platform, which includes push email features. (See Email Gets Open-Source Push.) And so on.

For enterprise IT managers, this profusion of choice can be a headache. Choice is a good thing, but we all know what too much of a good thing is like. Many of the IT managers I've spoken to the last few weeks are taking an ignore-it-and-hope-it-goes-way attitude to the whole RIM patent mess: "We're in denial," one told me.

For now, that's comforting news for RIM. Larger market forces, though, are not on RIM's side. De facto industry standards running on multiple devices always win out over closed, proprietary solutions – think Windows vs. Macintosh. If RIM doesn't want to go from a virtual monopoly to a high-end boutique provider, it will have to adapt to this new, increasingly diverse ecosystem – that is, if it manages to settle with NTP and avoid being shut down altogether.

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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