First Coffee for 13 February, 2006

David Sims : First Coffee
David Sims
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First Coffee for 13 February, 2006

By David Sims

david@firstcoffee.biz

The news as of the first coffee this morning, and the music is Robert Earl Keen’s Farm Fresh Onions:

Well, the big news is that Microsoft has decided it has what it takes to give Blackberry another kick when it’s down.

It’s being widely reported in the early morning media, and unfortunately this reporter doesn’t have the expense account required to stake out the Barcelona GSM conference 24/7 and wine and dine Microsoft officials for ye olde inside scoop, so let’s see what’s being said about the venture around the world:

From the good ol’ U.S.A., the nation’s News McNuggets vendor, USA Today, using an Associated Press report:

“Microsoft Corp. has won backing from major cellular networks for a new generation of phones designed to transform mobile e-mail from executive accessory to standard issue for the corporate rank-and-file.

“The partnerships, with operators including Vodafone and Cingular, to be announced Monday at a mobile industry gathering in Spain, could spell more trouble for the embattled Blackberry and other niche e-mail technologies, analysts say.”

Microsoft today announced that its Microsoft Connected Services Framework has been adopted by more than a dozen of the world’s communications companies, including Bell Canada, BT Retail and Celcom Malaysia. France Telecom is currently trialing the product.

Introduced last year about this time, Connected Services Framework is a software product that lets operators aggregate, provision and manage converged communications services for their subscribers, regardless of network or device.

So is Microsoft simply copying what others have done well, like Macintosh, etc.? Evidently they’re adding a wrinkle here and there:

“Unlike the Blackberry and its peers, phones running Microsoft’s latest Windows Mobile operating system can receive e-mails ‘pushed’ directly from servers that handle a company’s messaging –  without the need for a separate mobile server or additional license payments.”

The problem many see is that while Microsoft certainly has the technology, and now, evidently, the desire to do well in this market, there’s the issue of data security. RIM’s done pretty well in this, and Microsoft… hasn’t. That’s a problem that’ll need to be overcome.

“IT decision makers’ experience of Microsoft hasn’t always been a happy one, so there is some convincing to do there,” according to Andrew Brown, an analyst with consultancy IDC.

Wired News notes that “Vodafone is to sell the phones under its own brand, in a joint marketing deal, targeting companies that already run Microsoft’s Exchange software on their servers. Exchange is the collaborative glue behind Microsoft’s popular Outlook application, which manages appointments and electronic address books in addition to e-mail.

“Together with Cingular Wireless, Orange and T-Mobile, Vodafone will also deliver phone software upgrades to subscribers who are already running the Windows Mobile 5.0 operating system on their smart phones.”

The New York Post has an original article, not simply a reprint of the AP feed, they say… hm, they say you have to register to read it, skip it. The Sydney Morning Herald says… says they run the AP feed.

Microsoft itself announced T-Mobile Netherlands and IS Interned Services’s upcoming availability of “new professional e-mail packages for small and medium-sized businesses based on the Microsoft Solution for Hosted Messaging and Collaboration version 3.5.”

T-Mobile will upgrade to the Messaging and Security Feature Pack for Windows Mobile 5.0-based devices, making it possible to offer hosted e-mail services on Windows Mobile-based T-Mobile MDA Smartphones.

T-Mobile Netherlands will provide MDA Smartphones and the GPRS network, and Microsoft Certified Partner and Internet service provider IS Interned Services will host the Exchange infrastructure for the Microsoft Solution for Hosted Messaging and Collaboration version 3.5, including the maintenance and support of the e-mail service.

Ah, here we go, finally, some original reporting. Industry observer Ina Fried says Microsoft’s optimistic that “although Microsoft is offering push e-mail abilities later than some mobile specialists, such as Research In Motion and Good Technology, the company says the numbers are still on its side.”

Sure, just like numbers were on its side against Netscape too.

“Although there are a billion mobile phones and 400 million Outlook e-mail users worldwide, only about 10 million people are getting their corporate e-mail delivered to their phones,” Fried says. Light bulbs went off all over Redmond:

“We look at the universe out there and we know there is just a huge, huge opportunity yet to be met,” Microsoft vice president Suzan DelBene told Fried in a telephone interview. Push e-mail is what gets forwarded as it comes in on the server, as opposed to pull e-mail, in which a user has to manually retrieve e-mail or get it at a certain time.”

Microsoft has been promising push e-mail for some time, as Fried says, “but it has taken a while to get all the pieces in place. The technology was made possible by combining devices running Windows Mobile 5 with servers using Exchange 2003 Service Pack 2. The final piece, a messaging and security service pack, was shipped last year, but had yet to show up on devices in the market.”

Microsoft says a number of carriers, including Amena, Chungwa Telecom, Cingular Wireless, Orange, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon and Vodafone are offering free upgrades for customers that will allow them to get the “Direct Push” e-mail abilities as well as new security features, according to Fried.

There are those who say Blackberry’s demise was in Microsoft’s October update to Exchange. Strand Consult, a Denmark-based IT research house, the AP reports, “expects companies worldwide to invest in much broader mobile e-mail access for their employees in 2006.

“At the end of the year, many will be asking themselves whether they really needed a Blackberry handset from RIM to check mail, and RIM might be asking themselves what went wrong,” Strand wrote in a research note seen by the AP, adding “Microsoft will most probably overtake RIM as the leading mobile e-mail provider.”

A friend of mine writes in to say “So, is he the first guy to be elected vice-president and later shoot a guy since… Aaron Burr?”

Maybe, but Alexander Hamilton only wishes Aaron Burr was using quail shot.

MobileAware, a mobile data services vendor, is announcing a partnership with InFact Group, a global technology consulting organization specializing in Customer Relationship Management, to help companies extend their existing CRM systems, such as Siebel CRM OnDemand.

The idea is to provide mobile field force employees a real-time snapshot of customer interactions from any mobile device.

InFact Group will use MobileAware’s device-tailored content rendering technology to provide customers, particularly in financial service, travel and manufacturing industries with what company officials call “a low-risk product” to use the data contained in their installed CRM systems.

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