A growing array of mobile push email options is good news for enterprise buyers
The BlackBerry has become almost synonymous with mobile push email in the way that the Xerox brand used to be interchangeable with copier machines. That's a nice position to be in, but it could also be short-lived: push email is one of the most competitive areas of IT at the moment, with a wide-range of platforms available from numerous vendors.
Of course competition is great for consumers, but it also means users need to weigh the available options more carefully to get the solution that fits their needs.
Mobile push email is on the radar of just about every enterprise right now, with many having already dipped their toes in the water. While in the past companies limited such services to top executives, now it is spreading to a much wider range of staff. According to IDC, the Asia-Pacific market for mobile enterprise email is growing at a compound annual growth rate of 38.2%.
IDC and Gartner have both advised IT managers that they need to prepare for wireless email, with Gartner expecting it to be a feature on every smartphone by 2008. And 'prosumers' within the enterprise have already expressed a preference for mobile email as a necessary work tool, according to Shalini Verma, senior market analyst for IDC's Asia-Pacific Enterprise Mobility Research.
'Organizations planning to deploy enterprise mobility need to consider the usage preferences of prosumers within the companies to ensure greater end-user adoption of enterprise mobility applications,' Verma said.
With estimates that only five million of the world's 350 million corporate email accounts are mobile-enabled, it seems a lot of enterprises will be weighing their options in the short term.
One major advantage of the BlackBerry is that it's already well entrenched in many organizations. As a result, some enterprises will likely stick with it when they expand push email throughout the organization.
As noted, the choice of push email solutions has increased rapidly, with one of the newest coming from software giant Microsoft. Earlier this year it integrated push email capability directly into Exchange Server 2003.
According to many in the enterprise space, the Microsoft solution is cheaper and also supports a wider range of devices.
An industry source noted: 'We wanted to get away from third-party solutions. Push email is an additional server and with Microsoft it's one software layer less. That's in line with our strategy - we regularly look at collapsing back into a standard stack and away from third-party solutions.'
Microsoft's 'Direct Push' is included as part of Exchange Server 2003 Service Pack 2. So while it is 'free', enterprises do have to upgrade to the latest version of Exchange, while devices have to support Windows Mobile 5.0 with the Messaging and Security Feature Pack (MSFP).
One criticism of Microsoft's push email is that it is more bandwidth hungry, and as some in the industry admit the BlackBerry system does use a 'lighter' protocol. However, this can also depend on how the system is set up and that faster networks increasingly make this irrelevant.