Carriers Get Religion

Partnerships with software developers pave way for services.

Its been a long time coming, but wireless carriers are finally getting the idea that cooperation is a good thing when it comes to enterprise applications. Cingular Wireless, Sprint PCS Group, T-Mobile USA Inc. and Verizon Wireless all have upcoming business application offerings that depend on third-party partners. As a result, enterprise customers will be able to buy applications direct from the carriers with the confidence that the products were developed by software experts.

"That makes sense," said Kevin Baradet, chief technology officer of the S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University, in Ithaca, N.Y., and an eWEEK Corporate Partner. "[The carriers are] not software developers. Theyre not even hardware developers. This will be a good move."

Cingulars efforts include separate application offerings from Siebel Systems Inc., Computer Associates International Inc. and Unisys Corp., said officials here at the CTIA Wireless show last week.

Siebels offering will be tailored to sales force automation; CAs, to help desks; and Unisys, to execution automation, said Jim Ryan, vice president of data products at Cingular, of Atlanta. The applications are mobile-enabled versions of the partners offerings.

Ryan said the initiatives signal the start of a broader Cingular strategy to deliver enterprise applications from these and other partners.

Sprint, meanwhile, announced a behind-the-firewall version of its Sprint Business Connection e-mail access product, which uses software from Seven Networks Inc. The move is an acknowledgment that some customers arent comfortable with a carrier-hosted solution, said officials of the Overland Park, Kan., company.

"Three or four years ago, there wasnt enough activity in the apps space, so the carriers did it themselves," said Cameron Rejali, vice president of product management and development for Sprint Business Solutions.

Leaving software development to partners has given Sprint more time to focus on issues such as easing billing headaches for enterprise customers. In the third quarter, the company plans to offer packages that combine third-generation, dial-up and Wi-Fi services, officials said.

Enterprise partners said the sea change is encouraging and necessary.

"A year ago, if an operator delivered five services in a year, theyd pat themselves on the back," said Philip McKinney, vice president and CTO of the network and service provider business unit at Hewlett-Packard Co., in Reston, Va. "They spent too much time playing the EBITDA [earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization] game."

HP is working on corporate applications for carriers to offer. Sales force automation is a key target, McKinney said.

T-Mobile this spring plans to offer wireless messaging and corporate data access software from Good Technology Inc. for PalmOne Inc.s Treo 600 and T-Mobiles Pocket PC Phone Edition devices, said officials of Good, based in Sunnyvale, Calif. GoodLink 3.0 provides a two-way connection to Microsoft Corp.s Exchange and various customer relationship management and enterprise resource planning applications.

Verizon Wireless plans to team up with companies that will develop applications for its new Code Division Multiple Access Ev-DO (Evolution-Data Optimized) 3G network, which will be available to 30 percent of the companys markets by years end, officials said.

"Were going to walk with the bigger business customers who want it first," said Dick Lynch, CTO of the Bedminster, N.J., company. "The business customer has applications, and they want to wirelessly enable those."

Verizon Wireless officials said many of their meetings at CTIA were with third-party software developers that could come up with applications to take advantage of the Ev-DO network.

"A year ago, we were only interested in third-party software that the developers would sell themselves," said Paul Palmieri, executive director of business development and programming at Verizon Wireless. "Theres been a swing. The combination of the right sales force sitting with the right applications is all coming to pass."

Scot Petersen

Scot Petersen

Scot Petersen is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. Prior to joining Ziff Brothers, Scot was the editorial director, Business Applications & Architecture,...