Visto Looks North

Canadian telco Telus Corp. (NYSE: TU; Toronto: T) said today it has chosen mobile email provider Visto Corp. to support its Business Inbox solution for enterprise customers.

The partnering illustrates a shift in the mobile email market away from recent patent disputes to relationship building with big national carriers.

Business Inbox is available on three devices: the Palm Inc. Treo 650, the UTStarcom Inc. (Nasdaq: UTSI) Pocket PC 6700, and the PPC 6600, from Audiovox. The UTStarcom device runs the Windows Mobile 5.0 operating system while the Treo 650 runs the Palm OS.

The enterprise market for personal information management (PIM) is maturing beyond a single-provider monopoly, and the partnership marks the latest move of a big wireless carrier to offer an alternative mobile email solution to the popular BlackBerry, from BlackBerry . (See Alltel Rolls Lucky Seven.)

"The whole market for carrier-branded email solutions is aggressively picking up," says Visto vice president of marketing Sanjay Kamble. "All the Tier 1 carriers have either launched or are in the process of launching push email under own brand name to business users."

Establishing relationships with major carriers is especially critical to the second-tier mobile email providers like Visto, Seven Networks Inc. , and Good Technology Inc. , which face formidable competition both from RIM and from Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), whose Windows Mobile 5.0 OS supports wireless messaging with a free upgrade to the MS Exchange Server. Some analysts believe that the entry of Microsoft into the wireless email market spells doom for third-party providers like Visto. (See Europe First for Redmond Push .)

According to Kamble, carrier-branded solutions carry two advantages for enterprise customers: freedom of choice and a single source for mobile telecommunications solutions.

"Companies no longer want to be dependent on a one-party proprietary device, so that they can work with an existing solution and extend it to wireless email," says Kamble. "The other thing that we're hearing from customers is that, with a branded solution, the carrier becomes the single point of contact, providing the entire solution. What they tell us is 'It's the same bill, there's one person to call if I have a problem, the resolution is immediate, and they take care of me.' "

What's more, many believe that the continued expansion of mobile email to so-called "white-label" (generic, unbranded) products offered by the carriers will help increase average revenue per user, reduce customer churn, and fuel the growth of wireless messaging beyond the 6 million to 7 million current users into the dozens or even hundreds of millions.

Business Inbox will be available in two versions: one for larger enterprises, based on the company's Enterprise Server, and for small businesses, the Telus Desktop Redirector, which provides wireless access for up to five users.

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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