Sprint Adds Application Access To IM

UAM software uses the same buddy list interface as Sprint's Enterprise instant messaging software.

Sprint Communications Co. LP, which made its enterprise IM debut in April, is seeking to up the ante with the release next week of its Universal Application Messaging software.

UAM, which was previewed at Comdex this week, uses the same buddy list interface as Sprints Enterprise instant messaging software. But instead of providing presence information on other IM users, UAM provides access to applications via IM to mobile workers using handheld devices.

Universal Application Messaging UAM creates an "applications buddy list" where icons that represent applications can be added. Users can then query those applications in IM using natural language.

Sprint officials, in Kansas City, Mo., said the IM form factor is an effective way of accessing information through wireless devices, since the text messaging interface requires less bandwidth than a typical wireless Web browser would. Users will be able to access simple contact information from corporate directories as well as information from more complex applications, such as updates from inventory management applications, Sprint officials said. In addition, UAM will be able to receive IM or e-mail alerts from those applications, such as for inventory shortages.

Some configuration will be required to connect UAM with specific applications, Sprint officials said, though the company will provide services to assist customers in that regard. Sprint UAM can be used on any Java 2 Mobile Edition compatible handheld device as well as Palm OS devices, officials said. Support is also planned for PocketPC devices, Sprint officials said. Officials acknowledged that devices with particularly elegant interfaces like Handspring Inc.s Treo and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.s I-300 would be best suited for the service.

The UAM service features standard SSL encryption and Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service for user authentication and can support additional layers of security. It runs on 2G, 2.5G and 3G wireless networks.

Michael Sampson, analyst at Ferris Research Inc., in San Francisco, said Sprint UAM was another example of how IM is increasingly being integrated with business applications.

"It makes a lot of sense to have these [IM] capabilities available in the applications that people use on a moment-by-moment basis," Sampson said.

Sprints move should have an added benefit for wireless service providers.

"This will help Sprint drive mobile airtime, which will be good for the bottom line," Sampson said.

Salesforce.com Inc. announced similar technology last month with its Airforce Wireless Edition. Sampson said other companies such as Vayusphere Inc. and ActiveBuddy Inc., are also focused on delivering information from business applications via IM.