Do not rush to mobilise e-mail

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20 June 2005 | 0

Mobile e-mail is now one of the hottest sectors of IT, with a growing number of vendors jockeying to be the chief rival to Research In Motion (RIM) and its BlackBerry products. RIM has managed to establish an early lead, especially so when it comes to capturing the attention of the top executives who wield considerable influence over buying decisions.

Although RIM has seen its year-on-year sales double, it won’t have the market to itself for much longer. Some very big players want their slice of the mobile enterprise pie. Vodafone recently announced it is to offer push e-mail, using technology from Visto, on phone handsets in all or most countries where it operates.

 

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And European firm Smartner was recently acquired by US-based Seven to create a mobile mail provider with global presence.

Microsoft has already rolled the functions of its Mobile Information Server into the latest version of Exchange Server, making it much easier to link with wireless devices running Windows Mobile software. The next release is likely to extend this with push email, and vendors such as Nokia and PalmOne have licensed Microsoft’s ActiveSync technology to let their own handsets connect to Exchange Server.

With all of this activity, you would be forgiven for thinking there is an unseemly rush by businesses to deploy mobile e-mail systems for staff. If this is so, then it could be a big mistake. Firms must carefully consider exactly what they want from mobile data access before rushing off to install BlackBerry Enterprise Server or one of the alternative e-mail systems.

What about other apps? A hasty deployment to mobilise e-mail could mean your firm will have to budget for a second solution within a year or two to get mobile access to purchasing systems or customer records, for example.

A comprehensive mobile strategy needs to consider the jobs that are likely to benefit from mobile data access in the future and the kind of apps that will be needed to support staff in the field.

Some mobility vendors have already broadened support to allow access to a range of enterprise applications. Extended Systems offers field sales, field service and field inspection (mobile data capture) applications as well as email with its OneBridge suite, while Good Technology this year announced its GoodAccess product, which links to apps such as Salesforce.com and Siebel while also offering the ability to build customised applications.

Another reason for carefully planning a mobile strategy is that the result will affect the choice of client device that you can deploy to staff. Firms that rushed to install BlackBerry Enterprise Server are stuck using the utilitarian BlackBerry handsets for now, while those that invested in apps built on Microsoft’s dot-Net web services may find Pocket PC Phone devices are their only realistic option for mobile access.

Your business rivals may have mobile email, but that doesn’t mean you should rush to join them. Take a step back and consider the bigger picture first.

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