Wireless IM Product Faces Hurdles

By eweek  |  Posted 2001-06-25

In an effort to appeal to a budding interest among enterprises in wireless instant messaging, Lotus Development last week introduced Sametime Everyplace, an offering already being criticized as unsophisticated.

With the wireless IM product, enterprise users with the right gear can send secure and encrypted text messages to one another. But Sametime Everyplace requires users to manually control their own presence information by using their PCs or wireless devices to set their status as available or unavailable.

Critics say that the cumbersome feature shows that Lotus parent IBM does not fully understand wireless technology.

"The IP [Internet Protocol] world doesnt understand how wireless networks work," said Tim Zenk, vice president of corporate communications at TeleCommunication Systems. Like TCS, vendors Invertix and Openwave Systems say that, in contrast to IBM, they can deliver wireless IM solutions that automatically detect and distribute user presence information.

Some industry leaders believe that while wireless messaging will be a hot application for corporate users, it may not take off significantly until further developments are made. "Messaging is a big application, and the wireless guys here could own that market. But its a standards issue," said Roland Van der Meer, a partner at investment firm ComVentures.

To fully deliver on its vision, TCS must secure relationships with all wireless operators, which it has not yet done. By deploying its platform on all wireless networks, TCS could access valuable presence information from operators that it could automatically pass on to buddies, regardless of the network to which the user subscribes.

Invertix has a sophisticated system of detecting presence on multiple devices. A user can set preferences so that when his or her desktop computer is idle long enough for the screen saver to pop up, instant messages will be routed automatically to the users wireless device of choice. Users can extend that preference to include another PC; for example, when the user turns on a home computer, it becomes the preferred device on which to receive messages.

Invertix can also allow its wireless network customers to offer a secure messaging service over a private network to enterprise customers. End users wouldnt have to standardize on devices or service providers. "Messages could flow across different devices and different networks," said Ed Bursk, vice president and chief marketing officer at Invertix.

Standards remain a hurdle. Wireless operators have agreed on Session Initiation Protocol, a standard signaling system that will be used in next-generation networks and can detect presence information. However, until future packet-based networks using SIP are up and running, wireless messaging may see slow adoption, Van der Meer said.

I-managers dont want mobile workers to rely on widely available Internet offerings, such as wireless messaging from America Online or Yahoo!, for security and reliability reasons.

Lotus Sametime Everyplace delivers the same security model as its other products, including Secure Sockets Layer, user authentication and encryption. Invertix can also deliver encryption and authentication, and can integrate with a firewall at an enterprise. TCS offers guaranteed message delivery.

Rocket Fuel