Nokia has introduced a new software platform to support mobile business applications, starting with push e-mail. The company joins a handful of other enterprise e-mail providers and vendors that are trying to penetrate a market dominated Research In Motion (RIM) with its Blackberry devices and software.
To implement the service, an enterprise installs the Nokia Business Center server software. End users with Java MIDP 2.0-capable phones that are certified by Nokia then download the client, enabling them to receive and send corporate e-mail. MIDP, or Mobile Information Device Protocol, is part of the Java runtime environment for mobile phones.
Initially, the service will be available on a range of Nokia handsets, including the Nokia 9500 Communicator and selected Nokia 6600 phones. The first version of the offering can deliver e-mail from Microsoft Exchange Server 2003, with support for Lotus Notes and Domino to follow.
Nokia is offering two tiers of products. The basic client allows users to compose, read and delete e-mail as well as manage local folders. A professional version, which costs more, offers a more graphical experience plus support for functions such as managing meeting requests, reading attachments, finding employee contact information from a corporate directory and searching local folders.
Nokia Business Center is priced at Euro 1,800 (US$2,211), including support for an unlimited number of standard users. The professional edition costs an additional Euro 30 per user. Nokia expects the service to be available in the Americas and Europe, the Middle East and Africa in the fourth quarter of this year.
In the future, Nokia intends to add support for remote access to other types of corporate data beyond e-mail, the company said.
The Finnish manufacturer isn't the only company offering such a service. Microsoft's Windows Mobile 5.0 supports e-mail functionality, and a number of other companies, such as Seven Networks, offer mobile e-mail products as well.
RIM is considered the first successful company to deliver a mobile e-mail system, with its popular Blackberry platform. Qualcomm and Microsoft tried to create a market for push e-mail when they formed Wireless Knowledge in 1998. The venture aimed to develop a system for delivering corporate content to mobile devices, but it was shut down in 2003.
The environment today may be just right to enable mobile corporate e-mail to penetrate more than just the executive corridors, said Nick Jones, a vice president at Gartner Inc. "Until now, mobile e-mail has been a senior executive toy," he said. With an increasing number of smart phones becoming available and dropping wireless data prices, more workers may be offered mobile e-mail. "We're at the cusp of when it starts moving from an executive niche market to a mainstream corporate market," he said.
Jones anticipates that by 2008, 30 per cent of phones shipped in Europe will be smart phones, which can better support mobile e-mail services.
Several operators, including Vodafone Group in the U.K., are now offering flat-rate data packages. "Once you have a flat rate, then the CIO doesn't have to worry so much about how much you spend," Jones said.
Accenture in the U.K. and Polish mobile phone operator Polkomtel, which operates under the trade name Plus GSM, are currently testing Nokia's push e-mail service, the company said.