Mobile email: When push comes to shoving

Summary:3GSM: Microsoft is stepping up its drive into push email technology but it faces some stiff competition for the hundreds of millions of enterprise mailboxes up for grabs

In one of a slew of announcements made on Monday at the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona, Microsoft revealed that it is stepping up its campaign to seize a chunk of the mobile email market. This increased focus includes the release of four new devices built by HP, with Microsoft's new push-email functionality built in, together with several high-profile deals with service providers such as Vodafone to allow more customers to take advantage of the new systems.

Microsoft's interest in push email is natural given the size of the potential market. Some estimates put the number of corporate email inboxes globally at 650 million. Not all of these users will want or be prepared to invest in mobile mail but it is clear that there is a substantial market to tap. The software giant is hoping to use its size to undercut much of the competition and is offering its Messaging and Security Feature Pack free to customers who already have Exchange Server 2003 and Windows Mobile 5.0.

As well as the huge potential revenues, Microsoft is keen to extend its dominance of PC-based productivity software to the mobile market. Speaking at 3GSM this week, Pieter Knook, Microsoft senior vice-president for communications, said that offering mobile email to its customers is part of a wider push to give enterprise users mobile access to many of their PC-based applications.

"Our mobile version starts with work productivity — MS Office and Exchange. With mobile we extend that beyond what is available the PC. It is all about having the ability to take Office on the road with you," Knook said.

However despite its size and the dominance of its Exchange back-end platform, Microsoft is unlikely to have things all its own way. The sheer size of the potential market for mobile mail has lead to some vigorous jostling for position by the various existing players and new entrants. Datamonitor expects mobile operators' revenues from enterprise mobile email and PIM alone to total $600m (£300m) by 2009.

Research in Motion has enjoyed a comfortable lead over other suppliers for the last three to four years, thanks to the insightful vision of its management which saw the potential popularity of providing mobile workers with access to their email.

RIM has around 4.3 million subscribers, out of an estimated six to ten million mobile email users worldwide.

Another competitor faced by Microsoft is mobile handset maker — and nemesis of old — Nokia. The two firms appeared to be on more peaceful terms at last year's 3GSM when they announced a deal in which Nokia licensed Microsoft's music player, but the gloves are off again when it comes to mobile email.

In 2005, Nokia acquired Intellisync, the number two player in the mobile email market, for $430m. Speaking at this year's show, Jorma Ollila, Nokia's chief executive, said the acquisition was...

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Topics: Mobility

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"If I'd written all the truth I knew for the past ten years, about 600 people - including me - would be rotting in prison cells from Rio to Seattle today. Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity in the context of professional journalism." Hunter S. Thompson Andrew Donoghue is a freelance technology and business journ... Full Bio

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