Captaris plunges into wireless world

Captaris Inc., long known under the name AVT and for its unified messaging products, has branched out into the wireless world.

The company recently heralded its Infinite Mobile Delivery Server, which provides access to enterprise applications from a variety of wireless devices. The server acts as a gateway, recognizing the device trying to access the network and converting data from enterprise applications into a format for that device.

The server is designed to help IT executives deliver applications - especially e-mail and database-driven applications - to mobile workers accessing the network from a cell phone or PDA. The server works with any device with a browser.

"The server extends our ability to get information out to people, and that is our business," says Dean Maire, vice president of strategy and business development for Imagecom, a subsidiary of Vector ESP, a company that provides data services. "We immediately had wireless access to e-mail, contacts and scheduling out of the box, but what we find compelling for the future is creating a platform to tie into our internal data sources."

Maire says Captaris has the flexibility to deliver that data to any device, something he didn't see in other products.

Captaris will need to set itself apart in a crowded market that includes Microsoft Corp., IBM Corp. and Oracle Corp.

"The challenge for Captaris will be to get noticed, to get stuff out there and to get it working," says Peter Davidson, president of Davidson Consulting. "It will be important to get in the right vertical markets and with the right early adopters."

Captaris acquired the Mobile Delivery Server when it bought Infinite Technologies Inc. in January for US$24 million. Before the acquisition, Infinite supplied transcoding software to large carriers, including British Telecom, which has millions of users.

Captaris plans to integrate the wireless server with its unified messaging applications. Those include RightFax, for Internet faxing, and CallXpress, a universal in-box for fax, voice and text messages.

"With the wireless piece, you now can think of it as unified communication," says Allan Carter, director of marketing for mobile and wireless at Captaris.

Mobile Delivery Server lets wireless users access e-mail, voice mail, faxes, personal calendars, task lists and contact databases from any number of e-mail platforms, including Lotus Notes and Microsoft Exchange. The server also has a voice component that lets users listen to messages and respond with a voice message. It also can be used to wirelessly enable applications such as customer relationship management and enterprise resource planning.

But Mobile Delivery Server is not a miracle worker. Many applications must be modified to accommodate the small wireless devices.

The server ships with a connector for Exchange and a catch-all Enterprise Mail Connector. A dedicated Notes connector is under development. The server also has an Open Data Connector to support database applications and the voice connector.

The server ships with a Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) gateway and supports the Wireless Markup Language, Handheld Device Markup Language and Compact HTML.

Pricing for the server with licenses for 100 Exchange users and the voice connector starts at about US$100 per user. The Open Data Connector starts at $13,000 for 100 users.

Pricing for the WAP gateway is session based with a five-session license, which can support up to 500 users, starting at $700.

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