Corporate portal vendors ready for wireless

By Jennifer Mears, Network World |  Software

Portal software vendors Plumtree and Hummingbird later this year will announce wireless services that will let users have unlimited access to enterprise information portals and resources.

Plumtree will unveil its Internet Device Server, an add-on to its portal package, which will enable wireless access to portal e-mail, databases, the Web and other resources. As part of a phased rollout, Hummingbird will offer a subscription-based service that will send content to wireless devices.

Portals are becoming increasingly important as businesses strive to organize the vast amounts of information and capabilities available to employees, customers and partners over the Web.

It's not surprising, then, that as the use of wireless devices increases, businesses will want to ensure their corporate portals are accessible from anywhere.

Plumtree and Hummingbird aim to use their technology to get a leg up on competitors such as Viador, iPlanet, Epicentric and Yahoo that have rolled out wireless access to their portals in recent months. Analysts say Plumtree, whose customers include Ford Motor Co. and Kmart, is one of the top portal vendors in terms of wired portal deployments. Hummingbird also has a large customer base with clients such as New York law firm Dickstein Shapiro Morin & Oshinsky.

Larry Hawes, senior analyst at Delphi Group, says while overall wireless adoption may be slow, it's important for portal vendors to be offering some mobile capabilities. "The question is how ready are the businesses, the people who actually will be deploying wireless technologies," he says.

The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia is gearing up wireless portals. As wireless devices become more prevalent and technology advances to the point where more rich, content-heavy data can be transmitted, organizations will have to make sure they provide wireless access to their resources, says Evan Crawford, executive director of e-transformation/e-medicine and Web strategist.

"Being ready for wireless is extremely important," Crawford says. "If you're not thinking wireless when you're developing portals, then it's almost too late."

Creating portals for patients

Crawford is using portal vendor CoreChange to create portals for patients, physicians and clinicians at the hospital. Via the portals, patients or medical personnel will be able to check appointment schedules and medical histories, among other services. Crawford says he's planning to slowly build out his wireless infrastructure and eventually have customized portals for patients and employees within different departments of the hospital.

The limitations of today's wireless technology -- such as low bandwidth and spotty network coverage -- have caused some trepidation among some users, experts say.

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