Funambol has begun offering a beta version of an open-source software product that enables push e-mail to a wide range of mobile devices.
Enterprises can use Funambol v3 to offer push e-mail service from Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Domino, IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) and POP (Post Office Protocol) e-mail servers to handsets that have SyncML, an industry standard for synchronizing data between devices, Funambol said. Many phones come with SyncML but for devices running software from Microsoft, Research In Motion (RIM) and PalmOne, Funambol offers client software.
Funambol v3 pushes e-mail from the back-end server into whatever e-mail client is already on the phone. Handset users can send, receive and forward messages and also synchronize calendars, to-do lists, contacts and other data.
The product should be attractive to enterprises that don't want to be locked into a proprietary product that marries a specific back-end server to a certain brand or a limited number of devices, such as those offered by RIM or Microsoft, said Fabrizio Capobianco, chief executive officer of Funambol. "The vertical solutions where you must use one hardware and software vendor is really limiting for a lot of enterprises," he said.
In addition, Funambol v3 could help enterprises reduce costs associated with the end-user device. Many of the competing mobile e-mail solutions require high-end smart phones. But Funambol v3 is compatible with any device that has SyncML, which includes a wide variety of more standard handsets.
Funambol v3 will also be offered to mobile operators that can deliver the push e-mail offering to customers. Funambol doesn't have a solid date when the final product will be available.
Funambol joins a host of other companies, such as Visto, Good Technology and Nokia, that are aggressively competing in the push e-mail space. Capobianco thinks that many enterprises that already use open-source software will be drawn to Funambol because it's an open-source company.