Inching Into Wireless

Third-party developers ready alliances and tools to fill enterprises' access needs.

Third-party players remain bullish about providing wireless access to enterprise data, despite Microsoft Corp.s decision to discontinue its Mobile Internet Server.

To prove it, companies such as Everypath Inc., Extended Systems Inc. and Neomar Inc. are readying alliances and wireless server products and doing so at a time of growing demand for enterprise wireless access, which larger vendors and carriers have yet to fully provide.

Everypath, of San Jose, Calif., this week will introduce a client that provides access to applications from Siebel Systems Inc. The company will also introduce a client that manages device-side synchronization via HTML and a new feature for its Everypath Server that enables interaction between enterprise applications and devices, even when the devices are offline.

Everypath, which has only 25 major deployments, expects business to increase this year through marketing agreements with companies including Siebel and Accenture Ltd., rather than with device companies or carriers.

Extended Systems, of Boise, Idaho, has taken a similar approach—with systems integrators such as IBM Global Services and applications companies such as IBMs Lotus Software unit—rebranding and reselling its XtendConnect Server. The product enables offline connectivity between devices and enterprise servers. Extended Systems is getting ready to release a new version of its software later this month, which sources close to the company said will rival Research In Motion Ltd.s BlackBerry server, supporting access to Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Domino from Palm and Pocket PC devices.

Officials said the company plans to partner with sales force automation and customer relationship management vendors this year.

Neomar, of San Francisco, last week announced a new version of its Neomar Enterprise Server Software, which provides wireless access to enterprise applications for Palm OS, Pocket PC and BlackBerry devices. New features include support for offline forms and data. IGS and Electronic Data Systems Corp. are among companies that will resell the new software, officials said.

IT professionals who are considering wireless strategies report that simple access to e-mail platforms, which is what Mobile Internet Server supports, is not enough; partnerships with myriad application vendors are important.

"We need access to reporting and data mining applications," said John Schaaf, an analyst at Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp., an East Hanover, N.J., company that has been researching a wireless strategy for itself for the past six months.

Officials at wireless server software company Wireless Knowledge Inc., which was founded by Microsoft and Qualcomm Inc., acknowledged that slow enterprise adoption of wireless has been a challenge. But it accounts for why smaller players are still the leaders in the space. "Wireless is still not a message that has gotten to the C suite. Mobility wont be the $100 billion market that Microsoft needs for a few years," said Eric Shultz, CEO of Wireless Knowledge, in San Diego.

"Were advising our customers to be device-agnostic," said Roy Dube, a partner at the mobile and wireless practice of PWC Consulting, a business unit of PricewaterhouseCoopers, in Chicago. "We dont see people standardizing on one [wireless] platform, and even if they did, the next generations will have more capabilities and theyd have to start all over."

Companies like Microsoft have it in their best interests to focus on a single platform—in the case of Mobile Internet Server, its Pocket PC—in hopes that customers will standardize on the companys software on both the client and server sides. Schaaf said that ideally it would make sense to standardize on one device and one server platform that focused on that one device, but he agreed with Dube that its just not realistic.