Heavyweights lining up wireless partners

Working under the assumption that wireless will drive profits, Microsoft Corp., Cisco Systems Inc., and Motorola Inc. are busy lining up companies with the know-how to extend and deploy enterprise applications to a wide variety of mobile devices.

This week Invisix, a San Jose, Calif., wireless systems integrator jointly owned by Cisco and Motorola, will announce a deal with Xora Inc. to use that company’s wireless and voice solutions for extracting data from mission-critical applications and deploying out to wireless devices. Xora, in Mountain View, Calif., already has deals in place with many of the major enterprise software vendors including Clarify Corp., i2 Technologies Inc., Oracle Corp., SAP AG, and Siebel Systems Inc.

“Our IP (intellectual property) is around these enterprise apps,” said Ananth Rani, vice-president of products and services at Xora.

The Xora platform consists of middleware software that is both carrier and device independent which provides connectivity to back-office applications and out to the mobile devices, according to Peter Tsou, vice-president of business development at Xora.

The system can use either its pre-built connectors or adapters to enterprise applications or Web service protocols. “It can call a SOAP object,” Rani said. (Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) is a Microsoft-led initiative that allows applications to communicate with each other over the Internet, regardless of what operating enviroment that application runs in).

Using a business model that may have been pioneered by Intel Corp., which promotes ever more sophisticated software to increase sales of its hardware, Cisco is hoping to speed the deployment of wireless solutions in the enterprise to increase sales of its telecommunications products, said Peter Tsou, Xora’s business development head.

“Cisco is interested in driving infrastructure, and Cisco gear and enterprise data mobility is a way to increase sales to enterprise companies,” Tsou said.

Cisco and handset manufacturer Motorola aren’t the only high-tech companies partnering with wireless infrastructure suppliers to get more of their products out the door.

Last week Microsoft announced a deal with MobileWay, a so-called telecommunications logistics company that has agreements with 89 wireless carriers around the world.

With MobileWay as a partner, Microsoft is now ready to deploy its wireless middleware product, Microsoft Mobile Information Server (MMIS), as a hosted service to enterprise-level companies.

MMIS middleware consists of two pieces, an Enterprise Edition (EE) and a Carrier Edition (CE) of the server software. MobileWay will host the Carrier Edition at its data centers.

In its first incarnation, MMIS will only work with Microsoft Exchange Server.

“An end-user can configure his or her Outlook client to design numerous filters. For example they may want to receive an e-mail alert when the boss sends them a message or when a message is marked ‘Urgent.’ They can even have the first 160 characters forwarded to their cell phone. The Enterprise Edition sucks the information right out of Exchange,” said Patrice Peyret, CEO at MobileWay in San Francisco.

According to a Microsoft spokesperson, the concept will over time extend to its other enterprise software products, and the MMIS middleware will be targeted as one of the first .Net solutions.

“If you read the .Net papers, one of the foundation services is notification. When something happens remotely, the cell phone is a good way to get a notification,” Peyret said.

If eBay Inc. customers want to be notified on their cell phone when they have been out-bid, eBay has no control over which wireless carriers they subscribe to. Ebay and companies like them, have to make sure that they can be distributed, Peyret added.

Major software companies appear to be looking at companies such as MobileWay or Invisix that have a prior relationship with the various wireless carriers as a way to shorten the time it takes to deploy an enterprise application on a wireless device.

As a system integrator Invisix will supply the testing and deployment of wireless applications for carriers and developers at its test centers in San Jose, Calif.; Beijing, China; and Stockley Park, U.K.

MobileWay currently has not announced any deals with carriers in the United States but is expected to do so shortly.