(01/22/2001) – Like the telephone before it, e-mail has become a critical business tool. With it, employees are better connected to their entire organization, business partners, customers, and personal contacts, thus improving the efficiency in which they work.
But today most road-bound employees still send and receive e-mail messages using inconvenient analog modems. With the growing number of devices and services hitting the market, now is the time to figure out a wireless messaging strategy that allows your company to better share information, make quick decisions, and improve response times to customers.
Numerous wireless technologies such as handheld PCs, PDAs, telephones, pagers, and other handheld communication devices are making it possible for mobile workers to surf the Internet, send and receive e-mail, and access all kinds of computer-based personal and business information.
E-mail access options
In this issue, we picked three mobile messaging devices that allow your employees to take messaging and e-mail out of the building and into the places where they actually work. Each device also contains a number of applications which insures these devices will remain close at hand rather than forgotten on a hallway table.
We asked two leaders in wireless messaging, Motorola and Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM), for their latest products. We also wanted to look at a product that would make a Palm Inc.-based device, in this case a Handspring Inc. Visor, wireless. So we also included the Minstrel S wireless modem from Novatel in our report.
Handheld devices with built-in or snap-on wireless modems offer complete Internet access, including e-mail, using numerous service providers such as Palm.net, OmniSky, or any CDPD (cellular digital packet data)-based mobile phone service. These devices offer calendars, address books, memo pads, to-do lists, expense tracking, and the capability to add thousands of other applications. In addition, they include synchronizing software technology that swaps data with a desktop PC.
Two-way pagers, such as the Motorola’s Timeport P935 and Research In Motion’s Blackberry 950, enable users to send and receive electronic messages to or from pagers, fax machines, and Internet e-mail accounts. They also include the capability to synch with a desktop and a host of productivity-based applications, but to a lesser degree than Palm Inc.-based devices. For sending messages, however, they are hard to beat.
Regardless of which one you choose, you’ll need to sign up for service from a wireless provider. Rate plans vary depending on the actual services and airtime you need. Internet access or e-mail may not always be available.
From an enterprise perspective, the kind of wireless mail connectivity that will work best depends on what IT is already working with. To ease the transition, you can buy an add-on software package for the leading messaging server products such as Notes, Exchange, GroupWise, and iPlanet that helps with the synchronization and integration of wireless and wired e-mail.
Be prepared: Installing wireless e-mail access into a corporate network can be painful for network administrators, and the decision of whether or not to support wireless access to your corporate e-mail system is complex. If you decide that the benefits of improved accessibility and communications outweigh the costs, know that you will probably end up supporting several services and access options to meet the requirements of different portable devices and geographies.
Choosing the best wireless mail connectivity solution and devices for your particular enterprise will mean taking a hard look at both how your employees use and how they want to use their e-mail. By taking advantage of these new services, companies will be able to provide a more reliable level of e-mail services to their end-users.
Novatel Minstrel S
Dimensions (in inches): 3.1 by 2.6 by.42
Weight: 4 ounces
Vendor: Novatel Inc.
Phone: (888) 888-9231
Very compact, lightweight addition to a Visor
Built-in memory, battery, and applications
Memory allows applications to work even when not plugged in
Sign-on required to check and send messages Unstable connection
Service for the Minstrel can be supplied by virtually any cellular phone service provider that is CDPD based. As such, fees are often based on monthly or per-packet bases, rather than on a per-minute schedule.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Minstrel S is a good way of getting Palm-based devices connected to the Internet. Messaging, then, becomes just one of the great uses for your Visor. You can also browse HTML-or WML-based Web sites, allowing greater flexibility for the road warrior. The Minstrel comes with its own private memory and applications that become part of the whole system when plugged in or that operate independently when unplugged. We had trouble with dropped connections when used with the Visor Deluxe, which does not have the radio-frequency shielding of the Platinum and Prism models.
RIM 957 Wireless Handheld
Dimensions (in inches): 4.6 by 3.1 by.7
Weight: 5.3 ounces
Cost: Starts at $699
Vendor: Research In Motion
Phone: (519) 888-7465
Real QWERTY keyboard
Integrates with Enterprise e-mail servers
Slim size, light weight
No color screen option
No stylus navigation or inputting
The RIM solution (which includes the hardware, software, and wireless network access) is available two ways. The first, called Enterprise Edition and available directly from RIM, is offered on Microsoft Corp. Exchange or Lotus Development Corp. Domino, providing integration with corporate e-mail systems. The second is available on a consumer level from several ISPs including Earthlink Inc., GoAmerica Inc., and Aether Systems Inc. Either way, BellSouth Corp. or Motient Corp. will be the wireless network provider.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Enhanced screen and data-entry features, optimized keyboard, and light weight make the RIM 957 highly useful for workers who need instant access to e-mail and who need to stay organized on the road. The 957 delivers always-on e-mail with organizer applications, HotSync software, and 5MB of memory.
Motorola Timeport P935 Personal Interactive Communicator
Dimensions (in inches): 3.75 by 2.85 by 1.2
Weight: 6.7 ounces
Very compact and durable design
True QWERTY keyboard
Small, monochromatic LCD
Service is provided by a number of vendors including.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Timeport P935 PIC can be tailored with add-on applications, allowing users to integrate messaging with a PIM (personal information manager). It also comes with an infrared-compatible port used for beaming and provides user-friendly features including a GUI, a QWERTY keyboard, and a high-resolution, although small, LCD screen. Unlike other wireless devices that require logging in to the wireless network, the P935 is always in a two-way communications mode.
Ana Orubeondo is a senior analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center covering all things mobile and wireless. Send her a message at [email protected].
Prices listed are in Cdn currency.