Software.com Releases InterMail Upgrade

SAN MATEO (05/16/2000) - Software.com Inc. on Monday released InterMail Mx 5, adding LDAP directory and wireless protocol support as well as outsourced messaging management features to its InterMail messaging platform.

InterMail 5, targeted at service providers, provides a foundation for those looking to extend their services into markets such as Web mail, unified messaging, and wireless communications, officials said.

To link InterMail 5 with other servers and support a scalable structure, the release contains the LDAP version 3-compliant InterMail Mx 5 Integrated Services Directory (ISD). According to John McFarlane, CEO of Software.com, the directory is a "big value" for unified messaging.

"Once companies have a directory, they realize what they can do with it," McFarlane said, noting that Software.com has seen a rise in demand for directory services during the last six months because larger service providers "need [directories] now. They 'get' the idea of directories and how directories can help them tie everything together."

According to Mark Levitt, research director for collaborative computing at IDC, in Framingham, Massachusetts, Software.com will bear the burden of making their customers see the usefulness of the directory.

"The idea is that ASPs (application service providers) deal with a lot of different applications, not just e-mail, and by offering an LDAP directory, [Software.com] is hoping to have their ASP customers, their telco customers leverage that as their central directory rather than having to support and maintain multiple directories," Levitt said.

"It's a great feature if the customers pick it up from the table. Software.com needs to do more than just offer the feature. They need to explain to their customers, make sure their customers understand why it's being offered, and how exactly the customers can benefit from the feature," he added.

Along with LDAP, InterMail 5 supports several wireless messaging standards, including WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) and WML (Wireless Markup Language), which enable both wireless messaging and SMS (Short Message Service) as well as wireless instant messaging capabilities and services to track a user's location and availability through wireless cell phone features, said McFarlane. InterMail 5 also supports CHTML (Compact HTML), a wireless language more common in Japan markets.

McFarlane added that the wireless field and unified messaging will be a main focus for Software.com in coming months, especially due to current high demand in Europe and a growing interest in wireless technology in Asia.

"The big service providers are really starting to innovate, especially on the mobile side," McFarlane said, adding that giving customers a basic level of wireless or unified communication service seems to create a demand for more power and more bandwidth as well as Internet applications, which Software.com calls the "virtuous cycle."

"One of the reasons wireless is so interesting is because of the whole area of unified messaging, which has been in the works for 10 years, but hasn't really taken off, sees wireless as the final chapter of achieving unified messaging," Levitt added. "Unified messaging includes telephone access to messages as well as browser access, but it's that telephone piece that requires any unified messaging solution provider to be able to interact with or partner with wireless carriers. They own a significantly rising segment of the telephone business and the data-voice convergence is happening a lot faster on digital cell phones than through wired-line telephones."

InterMail 5 contains the InterManager browser-based management tool to handle management outsourcing systems and customer accounts through delegated administration, allowing multi-company hosting on one system and sets of controls specified for managers, end-users, administrators, and customer representatives.

Service providers can use InterManager to set customer account features and tailor their service offerings to particular subscriber groups based on customers' needs, creating customized "class of service" packages that "bundle new kinds of services together that are very complementary," McFarlane said.

"Using the InterManager module, service providers can delegate administration to customers who can then sub-delegate again as they see fit," McFarlane added.

"Service providers can go after a variety of customers and give customers some control."

Levitt believes InterMail 5 is a proactive move by Software.com to be ready for the pending wireless rush.

"They're obviously looking over the horizon," he said. "They want to be prepared and be the supplier of the infrastructure when wireless messaging becomes a significant force in the market."

InterMail Mx 5 is available now with pricing based on number of licensed seats.

Software.com Inc., in Santa Barbara, California, is at www.software.com.

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