Mobile email market hots up

Yahoo is following Microsoft in attempting to duplicate the success of the Blackberry

The storming success of Research In Motion's Blackberry appears to have tempted both Microsoft and Yahoo to compete with it in the mobile email space.

Yahoo launched on Wednesday a product called Mail for Mobile Devices, in partnership with US mobile software developer Seven. This will automatically send new messages out to Yahoo email users who have a Sprint mobile device, and will also let them access old messages and their address book.

Initially, the service will just be available in the US, but it appears that Yahoo has a global rollout in mind. In a statement accompanying the product launch, Stephen Drake, Program Director for IDC's Mobile Software service, predicted that Yahoo and Seven could "…deliver on the goal to offer mass market e-mail to a broader mobile audience and begin to address the hundreds of millions of mobile subscribers seeking such ubiquitous access."

Yahoo's offering is more likely to appeal to consumers than businesses, as it improves access to Web mail rather than a corporate service. But the move comes just a day after Microsoft said it was adding a new module to its Windows Mobile 5.0 platform that would allow companies to send email out to their workers as soon as it reached their Exchange mail server, without the need for middleware. This would allow Microsoft to compete closer with RIM in the 'push' email space.

Analysts, though, don't think RIM should be too worried, given its track record.

"Blackberry is a mature product that offers a consistent experience and a good balance between corporate security requirement and the need for a good user experience," said Elsa Lion, Ovum analyst.

"In its first release, Microsoft push email is unlikely to compare in terms of functionality and, crucially, security features with Blackberry. RIM's key customers, large corporations, will continue to prioritise security over user experience."