Receive, access and print wireless e-mail attachments with new apps

Wireless e-mail is one of the killer applications for mobile professionals, but difficulties with the receiving and accessing of attachments was impeding its potential. With its new wireless applications, E-Attach and EZ Print, San Francisco-based Astata Corp. is aiming to overcome these obstacles.

E-Attach gives mobile professionals the opportunity to receive and read text attachments on a variety of wireless devices, while EZ Print “Print2Fax” facilitates the printing of e-mail documents from a handheld device directly to a FAX machine, said Ken Nelson, CEO of Astata. He added that EZ Print provides e-mail notification regarding the status of the FAX transmission, automatically generates a cover page, and can be set up to print only portions of the message.

Callie Nelsen, a senior analyst with International Data Corp. in Austin, Tex., sees applications like E-Attach and EZ Print as necessities in the mobile industry.

“You’re going to see a growing use of wireless devices for e-mail and obviously a lot of those e-mails have attachments. Technology like that will allow people to send attachments to a fax machine or send it to another e-mail address where they can print it out.”

Nelson added that as an Applications Service Provider (ASP), Astata would help leverage other companies’ offerings without major investments on their part. “The ASP model is designed so we host these applications, providing security and technical support,” he said.

“We have 24x7x365 coverage, we have a privacy policy ensuring the security of the e-mail, and we have a few redundancies,” said Nelson. “The data centre is not at our premise — it’s a co-locate and we actually have a secondary co-locate behind that, so there’s a wide redundancy in the service. The applications have significant load-balancing, so we’re prepared if the entire world all of the sudden decides to turn on the service tomorrow.”

According to the company, both applications can be used on any Web-based (or Wireless Application Protocol) phone, including Sprint PCS, AT&T, Nextel and Verizon, using a portal, like Visto or Cellscape that allows users to forward e-mail attachments. The applications are also compatible with RIM interactive pagers and wireless Palm devices.

Designed for corporate and enterprise environments, seeking to extend office e-mail capabilities to wireless devices, E-Attach provides a 5Mb capacity per incoming e-mail and can support multiple attachments per message. To speed access, attachments are automatically converted to a text format including Word, Excel, Adobe Acrobat, HTML or rich text format.

“When their e-mails go to the data centre it’s not stored at all – it’s stripped down, converted (by the servers) and sent back,” said Nelson.

Brad Farkas, co-founder of New York City-based early stage Venture Capital firm i-Hatch Ventures, said his company is an early investor in Astata and that the company’s experience in Internet backend systems, scalable databases, billing systems and WAP implementation was key to i-Hatch’s decision to invest in Astata.

“It’s a lot of expertise to bring together and they’ve been in the business so long they have developers that have expertise in all of these different areas, and have a proven track record of getting products out into the field that work,” said Farkas.

Joe Greene, vice-president, Telecom and Internet Research with Toronto-based IDC Canada said that Astata’s recently announced offerings were “nothing new. There’s a lot of companies working on this for wireless devices…The wireless market in the communications world is one of the fastest-growing and so there are numerous companies doing this kind of thing. The key (to success) for a company like this would be getting their product to market, channels of distribution and brand awareness.”

E-Attach and EZ Print “Print2Fax” are available now through Astata’s reseller partners. E-Attach is retailing for US$4.95 per user, and the EZ Print service starts at 25 cents US per page. For more information, visit