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Mobile E-Mail For Business: How Five Platforms Compare

Sizing up Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia, RIM, and Sybase in the areas of flexibility, security, and cost.

Sean Ginevan

October 5, 2007

4 Min Read

Microsoft falls short in policy support as well as with a weak statement with regard to mobile application development. Given Windows Mobile's perceived ease as a development platform, we were surprised more emphasis wasn't placed here. Bottom line, Exchange represents a good way for enterprises, particularly those with Windows Mobile deployments, to get mobile e-mail piloted for relatively low effort and cost.

• Nokia's strength stems from its history as an OEM for major wireless carriers' mobile e-mail services. As such, Nokia's Intellisync Wireless Email system offers the greatest device choice, with support for both smartphones and consumer handsets that run BREW or J2ME. This translates into maximum flexibility when selecting devices. Nokia has gone so far as to develop its own e-mail client for each platform, ensuring a unified experience across hardware. Nokia's array of device choices makes it ideal for international deployments as well.

Nokia delivers a credible story in security, device management features, and application support. Self-service options, such as the ability to lock or wipe a device, are available to reduce the help desk burden. The disadvantage is that, while these components are integrated as a suite and managed from a single console, they're priced individually. The pro Nokia Intellisync license is priced at $12,255 for 100 users, $103,200 for 1,000, not including device management. Enterprises looking to deploy mobile e-mail on the cheap may be deterred by Nokia's à la carte pricing, but the company does provide a full feature set for mobile e-mail, wide device choice, and a credible framework for future application mobilization.

• Motorola Good is banking on security as a value add by integrating its previously separate security product into Good Mobile Messaging, a move that may reduce implementation costs. Like Nokia, Motorola Good has created its own e-mail client that it says offers an improved user experience over native clients like Microsoft Outlook Mobile. It quoted NWC Inc. $6,000 for 100 users, $55,000 for 1,000 employees.

Motorola also has developed its own mobile application development program, Good Mobile Intranet, which lets developers extend enterprise applications to mobile devices. Where the company is weak is in cross-platform support; development strengths have been with Windows Mobile and Palm, and client support hasn't appeared to progress much from there. Still, Motorola offers nice features, a pleasant client experience, and a good application mobilization road map.

• RIM's mobile e-mail story is compelling and has grown from simple e-mail and personal information manager synchronization to include delivering a wide variety of mobile data from behind the corporate firewall to mobile devices. RIM provided the most complete and impressive response to the security section of our RFI.

The BlackBerry was originally developed to run on older packet data networks like Mobitex and DataTAC. RIM has spent considerable effort in optimizing the efficiency of data transmissions, which has historically resulted in above-par battery life. For pricing, it quoted us $9,395 for 100 clients, $51,495 for 1,000.

While RIM has offered superb security and hardware, its e-mail client is beginning to show its age. Where companies like Microsoft have worked to display rich, HTML-formatted e-mail, RIM's reader supports mainly text-based messages. RIM also has gotten knocked as a less favorable platform for application development; in this area, the company has improved, making strides through both partnerships and its own efforts to deliver mobile enterprise applications to the BlackBerry. In part, this is handled through RIM's Mobile Data System.

Another knock against RIM has been that to get the benefits of BlackBerry Enterprise Server, including its policy management features, you had to use BlackBerry devices. RIM has again made strides to deliver both e-mail and MDS connections through its BlackBerry Connect platform on select Windows Mobile, Symbian, and Palm devices.

A recent offering, the BlackBerry Application Suite, allows the RIM OS to be virtualized on Windows Mobile 6 handsets, meaning the BlackBerry experience and RIM OS-based applications can run on Windows Mobile. The downside is that you'll likely have to manage these and BlackBerry Connect handsets through another device management system. And while the BlackBerry Application Suite is interesting, we've been unable to articulate just what the real benefit is for enterprises.

• Sybase iAnywhere bases its competitive advantage on the breadth and depth of its application mobilization, as well as its device management. Both feature sets have allowed Sybase to land big contracts. Sybase is also one of the few vendors to offer mobile IM in addition to standard collaboration tools, like e-mail and calendaring. It quoted us $19,900 and $165,000, including management.

Bottom line, Sybase's mobile e-mail product is well suited for companies that already rely on Sybase for either mobile device management or mobile application support.

Illustration by Viktor Koen

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