Support on Way for Multiplatform Wireless

New third-party server software that supports multiple wireless platforms could make life easier for IT managers increasingly looking to support more than one type of handheld device.

New third-party server software that supports multiple wireless platforms could make life easier for IT managers increasingly looking to support more than one type of handheld device.

Wireless server software developers Extended Systems Inc. and Neomar Inc. are each developing new versions of their respective products with comprehensive cross-platform support. The evolution of wireless servers is putting added pressure on Palm Inc., which is trying to morph itself into an enterprise wireless player but has yet to offer server software for its most highly touted enterprise device.

Extended Systems this week will announce support for the Research In Motion Ltd. BlackBerry device in its XtndConnect Server software.

The first piece, a desktop connector that enables server synchronization through the cradle, will be available in June. The second piece, which mimics the auto-delivery push feature of RIMs BlackBerry server, will be available in the fall. Extended Systems already offers such support for the Palm i705 and supports basic offline synchronization for several other platforms.

"Previously, there were two distinct types," said Don Baumgartner, business unit manager for universal mobile connectivity at Extended Systems, in Boise, Idaho. The company already offers offline sync support for devices that run the Palm, Microsoft Corp. Pocket PC and Symbian Ltd.s Epoc operating systems. "You had Palm and CE and then a separate model that was a wireless e-mail model with RIM. But now, with the advent of all these additional devices, those lines are getting blurred."

Multiple-device support means multiplying the price, however. For Extended Systems extended wireless support, users will pay $95 per seat and per device in groups of 1,000 users or more. The wireless push feature will cost $50 more per seat. But some customers said the cost is justified by the ease of use.

"Right now, were using both the BlackBerry Enterprise Server and the XtndConnect Server," said Rick Hancks, global handheld manager at 3M Co., in St. Paul, Minn., which supports more than 2,000 Palm, Pocket PC and BlackBerry devices. "Wed love to get down to the XtndConnect server to manage all three types."

Initially, XtndConnect will support only those RIM devices that run on the Mobitex network. Support for the new RIM 5810, which runs on the General Packet Radio Service network, is contingent on RIM, in Waterloo, Ontario, making the APIs available, which hasnt happened yet.

Neomar is also bullish on push technology. The San Francisco company next week will announce Version 3.5 of its Real Mobility Platform, which will include push support for HTML content. Neomar, which is partially funded by RIM, will unveil the new version at RIMs Wireless Enterprise Symposium in Atlanta.

Neomar is also looking to extend its reach by teaming with carriers. Next month, the company will announce a reselling agreement with Cingular Wireless, which has been working with its customer base to provide wireless access to corporate applications via the Neomar platform.

Corporate users desire for cross-platform support remains a challenge for others, such as Palm, which as yet has no server software for its push device. Palm is waiting until the end of the summer to release Palm Wireless Messaging Server for its i705 device.

Beyond basic e-mail push support, the Palm server will include bulk provisioning and message quarantining, said Palm officials in Santa Clara, Calif.

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