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Mobile Mail Markers

LAS VEGAS -- CTIA Wireless 2006 -- Asserting that mobile enterprise email "is a volume market that requires a volume platform," Symbian Ltd. is pushing what it calls an industry-wide validation program for push email solutions running on the Symbian mobile operating system.

The validation benchmarks, which will be fully detailed later this month, are designed to increase usage of mobile email in enterprises, currently at around 1 percent, says Symbian's head of enterprise market development.

"It's a bit of a carrot-and-stick strategy," says Andrew Moran, speaking today at the CTIA Wireless show here. "The carrot is to produce industry-accepted solutions that enterprises want to deploy. The stick is that the carriers are in agreement on these practices and will be checking to see that the vendors are in compliance."

Unlike some mobile-application and OS providers, Symbian remains focused on hastening more widespread adoption of mobile email, as opposed to a full complement of enterprise applications. Moran mentions an oft-cited report from Datamonitor that shows that of the 650 million or so corporate email accounts, only a fraction are currently "mobilized." (See David Heit, Sr. Product Manager, RIM.)

"Some people are asking 'What's next?' but we still see this as a completely unsaturated market," says Moran. "Mobile email will really be the gateway to these added-value applications for the enterprise, but first we have to get the penetration up to the 10 percent range."

Symbian shipped 33 million devices carrying its OS in 2005, all of which are mobile-email enabled. Developed in close collaboration with the major push-email vendors, including BlackBerry , Intellisync -- now part of Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) -- Seven Networks Inc. , and Visto Corp. , the guidelines cover installation, compatibility, features, and ease of use. Symbian's program is specifically calibrated to combat the perceptions that mobile email is difficult and expensive to use.

The Symbian effort parallels a wider industry push toward some form of open standards for mobile email. Companies like Good Technology Inc. , Visto, and Seven have long evangelized a non-proprietary ecosystem for enterprise messaging, while the advent of Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)'s Windows Mobile 5.0, with a free push email upgrade, enables a new generation of Windows Mobile-based devices to handle mobile email. (See Treo Hits New Highs .)

Whether users accustomed to BlackBerry's powerful functionality and seamless interface are willing to give it up, however, remains a large unknown. (See RIM's Unified Theory.)

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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