Ericsson takes office apps mobile

Ericsson says the service will pay for itself in 12 months, but customers may wonder if it is really worth spending £27,000 to give 50 staff access to their email while on the train

A company of 1000 employees would save £50,000 per year, if it equipped its mobile employees with PDAs that can access email and schedules, according to Ericsson Enterprise. The company has launched a product which does just that, and has pulled together its enterprise products under one brand. Ericsson Mobile Office (EMO) delivers Microsoft Office and email/calendaring -- Lotus Notes or Microsoft Exchange -- to mobile devices. The XML-based service is part of Ericsson's Mobile Internet Portfolio, and will be sold through third parties, including Damovo, the systems integrator which used to be part of Ericsson before it was sold off two years ago. Ericsson's company's cost-of-ownership figures are based on estimated percentages. "In a company of 1000 employees, around five percent -- 50 employees -- will be mobile, spending about 20 percent of their time out of the office," said Frederic Boone, Director of Marketing for Ericsson Enterprise. The company is losing 15,000 working hours per year, he said. The EMO service will cost around £250 per user, per month, he said, along with £300 for the extra communications it requires, so equipping those lucky 50 mobile employees with email and calendars on their PDAs would cost about £27,000 per year. If those mobile executives are worth £60 to £80 per hour, and EMO makes them only 5 percent more productive (say ten minutes in each of those mobile hours) that would gain the company about £75,000, said Boone. The main questions with these figures are how many staff are on that salary, and the assumption that they are completely unproductive when not connected to the network. But the figures give companies a concrete question: is it worth £27,000 to give 50 staff access to their email while they are on the train? Ericsson has a more sophisticated product, Virtual Office, which also includes the Microsoft Office suite and access to other applications such as planning tools, CRM and sales and ordering systems. All Ericsson's enterprise products are sold indirectly, including deals with telcos KPN of the Netherlands and Telefonica in Spain. EMO customers include Shell of the Netherlands, which is evaluating the product, said Boone. Other enterprise products include a digital PBX, and a combined mobile/office phone service offered through mobile operators, which takes the place of Ericsson's earlier "indoor base station" product. The indoor base station was a GSM base station intended for operators to sell to their business customers. Installed in the customer office, it would double as a GSM station for the mobile network and an exchange for calls made within the office. It turned out that mobile operators did not want to install hardware in user sites, said Boone, so the product has been replaced by a virtual version, which provides the same services using mobile operators existing network base stations.

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