IBM, Oracle tap Nokia for messaging on phones

IBM Corp. and Oracle Corp. will both work with Nokia Corp. to bring corporate e-mail and calendar applications to a user’s inside pocket, Oracle and IBM announced independently at the 3GSM World Congress in Cannes, France.

Oracle and Nokia launched a joint initiative to extend Oracle’s Collaboration Suite messaging application to Nokia phones, while IBM and Nokia said they plan to make Nokia handsets work with IBM’s WebSphere middleware and its new Wireless Enterprise Delivery Environment.

Nokia’s handsets, including the 6800 messaging device, the 9210 communicator and several phones running Symbian Ltd.’s operating system, will support both Oracle’s and IBM’s applications. Initially, both Oracle of Redwood Shores, California, and IBM of Armonk, New York, will focus on e-mail, calendars and related features, they said.

Both Oracle and IBM plan to bundle their products with Nokia handsets and offer complete mobility packages together with the Espoo, Finland, leader in the mobile phone market, the U.S. IT vendors said. A customer pilot is scheduled to begin in the second quarter of this year, beginning in the U.K. According to Oracle, program roll out will begin in Europe, and will then extend to the Americas and the Asia-Pacific market.

“The first thing customers want to do is e-mail and then they roll around and work with their employees to give them access to applications such as sales force automation and field automation,” said Ozzie Osborne, vice-president of alliances and operations for IBM’s Pervasive Computing unit.

Oracle does not expect service providers to offer mobile services based on Collaboration Suite to the masses. The product is meant for enterprise users who want to go mobile, said Rene Bonvanie, vice-president of Oracle 9i marketing.

“The first opportunity that we will pursue is to go to service providers to deliver this to their enterprise customers,” he said. An enterprise user could run the service in-house, but “playing mobile phone operator really is not their business,” Bonvanie said. “Users are looking at operators to solve the problems.”

Making phones part of a corporate IT network is not a simple task, said IBM’s Osborne.

“Integrating phones into the system is still not as easy as it should be because each phone uses a different system. Where we want to get to is the ability to have any handset being able to connect to any server,” he said.

Oracle launched Collaboration Suite, its answer to Microsoft Corp.’s Exchange, in July last year. By October, the company said it had about 300 Collaboration Suite customers. The first customer pilots with mobile devices are planned for the second quarter in the U.K., according to Oracle.

Oracle and IBM aren’t married to Nokia, however, as both are also looking at other handset makers. Oracle is in talks with Siemens AG and Motorola Inc., while IBM on Monday unveiled a deal with Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB.

Both Oracle and IBM also announced deals with mobile phone network vendor Alcatel SA for mobile access to back office applications over mobile data networks, including GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) and 3G (Third Generation) networks. For Oracle, the alliance with Alcatel is about the Mobile Field Services part of its 11i E-Business Suite of applications. IBM worked with Alcatel on making WebSphere and Lotus software accessible on pocket and laptop computers.