Large enterprises will see the release of two new offerings for mobile professionals this month with Nokia Corp.’s Access Mobilizer and Microsoft Corp.’s Exchange Server 2003 – which both promise to provide full wireless access to corporate e-mail, calendar and contacts.
Competition may be an issue for Nokia however, according to one analyst that said it is going to be difficult for the company to go up against Microsoft and other vendors in an already crowded market.
Microsoft’s product is integrated with Microsoft Office Outlook 2003 and uses redesigned Outlook Web Access software, which provides users access to data in Exchange through most Web browsers including Windows-powered Pocket PC devices, personal digital assistants (PDAs), Smartphones and cell phones, Microsoft said.
Outlook Web Access detects different types of devices using Exchange, according to Mark Relph, national manager of the Microsoft .Net platform team in Toronto.
“[The software] will format the display appropriately, so if you are using a low-resolution phone, like a traditional handset – black and white with a small screen – it will give you the information in text. If you are using a more advanced phone, for example a Pocket PC phone edition or something with full colour, it will format appropriately,” Relph said.
According to the software giant, the product was designed to meet the needs of employees that are accessing their corporate networks using many devices including laptops, handhelds and shared kiosks.
Along the same lines as Microsoft’s offering, Nokia’s Access Mobilizer allows users to access e-mail attachments as well as embedded live links to intranet or Internet sites. Although the software works best on the company’s business phones – including the Nokia 6800 messaging phone and the Nokia 6600 imaging phone – like Exchange, it will work on any browser-enabled device, according to Nokia.
Access Mobilizer also lets companies provide mobile workers with access to their intranets without having to install special software on each client or reformat content, Nokia spokesperson Michael Cabot said. It also makes use of companies’ existing security infrastructure by residing behind corporate firewalls.
Consisting of both software and hardware, the Access Mobilizer supports any browser-enabled device but works best on smart phones and PDAs designed for mobile data communications, according to Cabot. The technology automatically detects the type of mobile device and adapts content to fit into the display for easy viewing, he said.
“When users log in with their passwords, the system recognizes the device and security requirements and formats content in a way to make it relevant and viewable,” Cabot said. “By relevant, I mean the software will intuitively omit large graphics and provide instead some other indication of this content, such as a headline. Users will need to view these types of graphics on systems with larger screens.”
Although Nokia does have great name recognition and access to the wireless carriers, it will be difficult for the company to displace top vendors in the market including ViAir Inc., Seven Networks Inc. and Microsoft, said Carl Zetie, vice-president at Forrester Research in Waterford, Va.
He added that the main drawback of browser-based solutions like Nokia’s Access Mobilizer is that the user is required to be online – which can become expensive in air time – and the applications only work where there is mobile coverage.
“It can be very inconvenient if you can’t look up an essential e-mail – such as the location of a client meeting – because you are out of the coverage area or in a dead spot,” Zetie said.
He added that enterprise users that depend on e-mail tend to prefer solutions such as Research In Motion (RIM) Ltd.’s BlackBerry device, which allows users to move more seamlessly in and out of coverage without having to worry. The BlackBerry also allows users to have essential information downloaded to the device where they know they’ll always be able to reach it, Zetie said.
Dana Gardner, senior analyst with the Yankee Group in Boston, Mass. agreed that, to avoid headaches, IT departments would most likely recommend the BlackBerry device to mobile workers within the company.
He added that in order for IT departments and e-mail administrators to latch onto a mobile solution, like that of Nokia or Microsoft, the approach would have to be as simple and comprehensive as possible.
“I think what we are doing here is that we are making progress towards [creating] the type of solution enterprises are looking for…employees to be able to access their e-mail through the same device they use to make cellular calls and perhaps accessing the Internet from a mobile device,” Gardner said.
He added that although progress has been made, “we are not quite there yet.” A key issue that must be resolved before the technology can move forward and be adopted by more organizations is to blend the needs of the enterprise with what is provided by the local mobile carriers and vendors.
“There is still a need to align these parties together into a full solution, but the progress that they are making here is significant. I think we are still working our way toward the final solution.”
The Access Mobilizer is priced between US$50 to US$80 per user per year, depending on volume, and is available now in Canada. Microsoft’s Exchange Server 2003 will be available in Canada on Oct. 21. Pricing depends on configuration and can be found at www.microsoft.com/exchange/evaluation/ti/pricing.asp.
– With files from IDG News Service