Choosing handheld hardware for corporate e-mail
C'MON IN, DOOR'S open. Sit down. Take a load off.
So you want me to pick the best handheld wireless device for your company's e-mail platform, is that it?
No can do. But if you pull up a chair, I do have some info I hope you'll find useful.
If you're planning on extending corporate applications -- SFA (sales-force automation), supply-chain management, and logistics come to mind -- to handheld devices, wouldn't it be a waste not to be able to offer your mobile workers access to corporate e-mail, too?
E-mail has gone beyond being a killer app. Do you call the telephone a killer device in your house?
So, we have e-mail, not a killer app perhaps but part of the high-tech genetic code. The problem is there are three major handheld platforms to deal with: Palm, Pocket PC, and Research in Motion (RIM) Blackberry -- and two significant corporate e-mail systems: Lotus Notes on Domino Server and Microsoft Outlook on Exchange.
Although I cannot tell you what to use, it is a no-brainer to say that whatever corporate e-mail application you have deployed now should be extended to your handhelds.
I can't imagine any company changing email systems to suit the hardware. If someone is doing this, I'd like to hear the reasons why.
AvantGo, in San Mateo, Calif., provides Mobile Engine for Lotus Notes and for Outlook to allow users to synchronize either their Notes or Outlook e-mail, contacts, to-do lists, and calendar on a Palm or Pocket PC device. In addition, custom applications developed on the Notes platform can also be accessed using these devices. For all of them, just click on the AG Connect icon on the client and it dials in.
Three customers currently using AvantGo handheld solutions are American Express, Ford, and Hertz.
Deployments start between $30,000 and $70,000, depending on the number of users and the amount of functionality required. Individual Notes licenses start at $145 per seat.
Wireless Knowledge, in San Diego, has Workstyle Server, which similar to AvantGo's offering, sits in the so-called DMZ and connects to either Exchange or Domino. Any user with a Palm, Pocket PC, or RIM device with Internet access can wirelessly or via dial-up access their corporate e-mail contacts and calendars. RIM users need to have Anystyle Server rather than Workstyle Server installed.
Cox Communications, Universal Studios, and Aventis Pharmaceuticals have implemented the Wireless Knowledge solution, which costs about $120 per user. If you need Wireless Knowledge's professional services for the installation, that's about $6,000.
Pumatech, in San Jose, Calif., offers its Intellisync Anywhere Versions 1.0 and 2.0, which have become available this month. These solutions create a so-called shadow file on the Intellisync server, keeping wireless users clear of the Exchange or Domino servers. The shadow file is updated about every 12 seconds to 15 seconds.
One nice feature is Intellisync's alert capability. The user can create a notification file that will send an SMS (short messaging service) message if an e-mail is received from a designated sender.
Kemper Insurance and the New York City Board of Education are two major users of Pumatech's solution.
Intellisync Anywhere is available only for the Palm III and Palm V. The cost is $120 per user with maintenance for the first year included and no deployment fee.
Now let's change gears. Onset Technology, in Santa Cruz, Calif., offers companies, either as a wireless service or a software solution, the capability to open and read any e-mail attachment and use any fax machine to print it.
Using the service option, a user would forward the e-mail attachment to OnSet's MetaMessage service, putting the fax number in the message's subject heading. The service then opens the document and faxes it to that machine.
The cost is $8 per month to read, $12 to print, and $15 to do both and to receive inbound faxes on your handheld. If you would rather run the software yourself, licensing costs $50 per user for a perpetual license.
You'll notice there is no out-of-the-box server-side solution from Lotus or Microsoft. Some say that the third-party solutions, although good, suffer a performance hit that would not be the case if there were an integrated solution in Exchange or Domino.
When looking at any of these solutions, or at others, the key is that the software has to hide the difficulty. It has to be plugged in to Notes or Exchange, leveraging the existing infrastructure as much as possible.
Will Java or Visual Basic become the de facto development language for handhelds? Stay tuned for the answer.