The worlds leading mobile phone makers are turning their focus toward the enterprise, with new handsets and middleware that support corporate applications.
"Weve never focused on the enterprise market with such a dedicated team before," said John DeFeo, corporate vice president of government and enterprise mobility solutions at Motorola Inc., in Schaumburg, Ill. "Were bringing more to the market both in terms of the device and how the user uses it."
Cingular Wireless has been conducting beta trials of Motorolas CN-620 phone, which allows for seamless hand-off between WLANs (wireless LANs) and cellular networks. The phone should be generally available in the first half of next year, DeFeo said, and will be compatible with corporate PBX systems from both Avaya Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc. The company is planning several additional handsets with the roaming capability, DeFeo said.
Motorola also is readying a mix of middleware and gateways called EMP (Enterprise Mobility Platform), which extends corporate software applications to mobile handsets. The initial version, due to ship in the first quarter of next year, will work exclusively with Motorola devices that run Microsoft Corp.s Windows Mobile edition, such as the new Q device, which, at 11.5 millimeters, is the thinnest phone in the world with a QWERTY keyboard, according to Motorola executives.
Due early next year, the Q also has a camera, but officials said there will be a cameraless version of the Q for security-wary enterprise customers.
EMP will support applications such as field force automation and ERP (enterprise resource planning).
But Motorola is deliberately excluding support for e-mail on EMP, DeFeo said, in part because the platform is designed to support devices that run Windows. Microsoft recently has been gunning to eliminate the need for mobile middleware, going after the market currently dominated by Research In Motion Ltd. and its BlackBerry platform. Last week, Microsoft released Service Pack 2 for Microsoft Exchange, which lets the system push e-mail and calendar information to devices running Windows Mobile 5.0 without the need for middleware.
However, industry observers dont expect this to be a death knell for the BlackBerry.
There are also security concerns in Microsofts push e-mail solution. "We have an issue [when] you have to open up certain ports on the firewall. Were reluctant to provide direct access from the Internet to our Exchange server," said Schon Crouse, mobility support analyst for Childrens Hospital Inc., in Columbus, Ohio.
Of his customers who run Exchange, "maybe 10 percent are ready to upgrade to Service Pack 2," said Jean-Paul Boucher, director of wireless integration services at SRA International Inc., a systems integrator in Fairfax, Va., that focuses on government technology implementations. "For a government enterprise, RIM is still the focal point."
Bouchers customers are more interested in finding new devices that can connect to the BlackBerry server through RIMs BlackBerry Connect program, he said.
To that end, companies that compete against RIM continue to be its partners, too. Nokia Corp. plans to offer BlackBerry connectivity on its E60, E61 and E70, three corporate-focused phones that are due to hit the market early next year, said officials at the Espoo, Finland, company. Nokia also plans a 2006 release of several more devices that support both cellular and Wi-Fi networks, officials said.
Motorolas DeFeo said, "We still view RIM as a potential partner," although Motorola and RIM actually announced plans for BlackBerry Connect on Motorolas MPx devices in July 2004.
Nokia was the first company to offer BlackBerry Connect support for a specific device in the United States with its 9300 smart phone. At the same time, however, Nokia is pushing its own middleware platform, Nokia Business Server.
RIM has been battling ongoing legal woes with NTP Inc., which claims RIM infringed on many of its patents. The case, which is on its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, threatens to hamper RIMs ability to sell its products in the United States.
"At worst itll come down to users having to spend more money," said Ken Dulaney, an analyst at Gartner Inc., of Stamford, Conn. Dulaney said he expects the case to end with a financial settlement.
Dulaney said that mobile data customers face their biggest financial headaches from wireless carriers, through which most data services are sold.
Boucher agreed. "The carrier world has a lock," he said. "And because theyve brought prices down on phone services, theyre going to ramp them up on data."