Oracle sells wireless access to corporate email

Oracle Corp. will release a package of products and services Wednesday designed to offer a speedy and affordable method for outfitting enterprise customers with access to corporate e-mail and directories on wireless devices.

Oracle said it will bundle its software products, consulting services from 10 partner firms and product support into a fixed-price package – dubbed FastForward Mobile Email and Corporate Directory – that customers can purchase to roll out wireless computing on their networks. Implementation of the wireless platform is expected to take as few as 15 days and will cost US$125,000 for 500 universal power units – roughly the size of a single server.

“Then you can scale up from there,” said Jacob Christfort, chief technology officer and vice president of product development for Oracle’s mobile division.

While the Oracle 9i Application Server Wireless Edition, which runs the backbone for Oracle’s mobile computing applications, has been on the market since 1999, the company has been slow to market the platform to small and medium-sized corporate customers. Currently, Oracle’s major customers include Sprint PCS, which runs the wireless server platform to offer wireless Web to its customers, and several telecommunication providers in Europe, Asia and South America.

But with a number of competitors dialing into the same market, including IBM Corp. with its WebSphere products and Microsoft Corp. with the Mobile Information Server, business customers have become sought-after.

“We think the time has come to broaden out to medium to large enterprises,” Christfort said. “To do that we’ve created a very predictable, easy-to-start-with option.”

The FastForward program is aimed at signing up corporate customers that have been slow to adopt a wireless platform. As corporate information technology spending slows in the current market downturn, the adoption rate for wireless services has been slow going, analysts say. Oracle’s answer to that is an all-in-one package that gives customers fast access to the most simple entrant into the wireless market – corporate e-mail.

Using Oracle’s wireless server software, customers can already access sales force automation and customer resource management applications from wireless devices such as Palm Inc. handhelds, but few customers have yet to buy into those specialized programs. Offering access to corporate e-mail accounts and directories will attract a wider range of customers, Oracle said.

“Customers can expand from there, but they can justify their investment with this,” Christfort said.

A number of major technology consulting firms will offer their services as part of the package, including Cap Gemini Ernst and Young, Hewlett-Packard Co. in Europe and Mobilesoft Pty Ltd. in Asia. Oracle said 10 companies around the world have signed on in time for the release.

Oracle, in Redwood City, Calif., can be reached at