Wireless Carriers Get Religion for Business Applications

Partnerships with software developers pave the way for services aimed at enterprise. Shown at the CTIA Wireless show, forthcoming apps will leverage the experience

ATLANTA—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.

Next Page: Enterprise Partners Encouraged by the Change

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,...