Seven: This will be mobile e-mail's year

The push e-mail provider says its new partnership and product will drive mobile e-mail adoption and help it reach a wider market.

It will be a matter of time before e-mail becomes one of the most popular applications for the mobile phone, according to a senior Seven executive.

"We believe it's going to be mobile e-mail's year," said Siddharth Mahajan, vice president and general manager of Seven Asia-Pacific. "We are putting all the right structures in place to help the market grow and hopefully we'll see the results coming in Q3 or Q4 this year."

At the 3GSM conference Monday, the push e-mail provider announced its partnership with instant messaging (IM) vendor Miyowa to create an integrated messaging offering for mobile phone users. It also announced the launch of a consumer version of the company's push e-mail application, which lets users access both their POP and IMAP e-mail accounts on their mobile phone.

In a telephone interview, Mahajan told ZDNet Asia that the new product forms part of Seven’s initiative to drive mobile e-mail adoption in the region. In addition, Mahajan said the partnership with Miyowa was part of a strategic move to reach a wider market.

Miyowa's Presence-based technology--dubbed MoveMessenger--allows mobile phone users to access their preferred IM and multimedia content. The application, according to a media release, is compatible with most IM networks such as Windows Live Messenger and Yahoo.

According Mahajan, the integration of two contrasting but popular mobile-centric communication technologies provides a holistic approach for mobile operators.

"Providing this integrated mobile IM and e-mail give users a complete messaging experience on their mobiles," said Mahajan. "For consumers, this means having your e-mail and your IM all on one device. This is how we can help mobile operators drive end user adoption rate."

The integrated messaging service will be offered to mobile operators in Europe and Asia, stated a media statement issued by both companies.

When asked whether any mobile operator has signed on for the integrated service, Mahajan said that a few companies have shown interest, though he was unable to reveal any names.

Push factors for mobile e-mail
Mahajan also stated that Seven will be turning its attention to consumers, not just enterprise customers. He said that the newly launched push e-mail Consumer Edition targets consumers as well as small-midsized-enterprises (SMEs).

"We see an evolution of the [mobile] e-mail market starting with enterprises," Mahajan said. "But at the same time, we also see a growing trend where a growing number of users would like to get access to their IMAP and POP e-mail accounts from the mobile phone."

Like previous versions, the Consumer Edition push e-mail application will allow users to send and receive e-mail on handsets from different vendors, said Mahajan. Users will also be able to read, edit, re-send e-mail attachments, and maintain always-on access to their calendar and contacts when on the move, he added.

However, Mahajan noted that while the mobile e-mail is immensely popular North America, it still ranks a distant second behind text-based short messaging (SMS) applications in Asia.

He conceded that it is probably due to the fact that "text messaging is a popular messaging application across Asia", though he expects mobile e-mail to strike a chord with the business crowd.

"As far as business communication goes, your e-mail is important," Mahajan explained. "You can't close business deals using SMS. The moment you want to get into a formal type of communication, you need to use e-mail."

The senior Seven executive was also bullish about mobile e-mail's chances in developing countries like India and China. Citing India as an example, Mahajan noted that the number of e-mail users outnumber the number of PCs in the country, which could give operators an opportunity to showcase the virtues of mobile e-mail.

"We believe there is going to be a huge demand for mobile e-mail in this segment. India has probably an estimated 150 million email users but only 50 million computers," observed Mahajan. "That clearly shows that a lot of the e-mail users are actually using Internet cafes or office PCs to access their email accounts."

Mahajan said for this group of consumers without access to a PC, the ability to communicate and type e-mail messages using the mobile phone will be an "attractive factor".

Another way to increase user [e-mail] adoption, according to Mahajan, is to have the [e-mail] client preloaded onto the phone as it is easier for the user to activate the e-mail service.

When asked whether the future availability of third-generation (3G) cellular connectivity in India and China would help spur end-user uptake, Mahajan replied that faster networks--while always good to have--are not necessarily strong drivers for adoption.

"For text-based push e-mail messages, GPRS is sufficient. But if you have large file attachments [with your e-mail], then of course, having a faster [3G] network helps a lot more," he said.

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