Mobile phone firm to offer corporate email service

Will launch next week in Japan but European operators are also considering it...
Written by Ben Charny, Contributor

Will launch next week in Japan but European operators are also considering it...

Japanese mobile phone operator NTT DoCoMo is set to launch a new corporate email service next week that could pose a threat to manufacturers of handhelds for mobile professionals. NTT DoCoMo will give ordinary mobile phones access to Microsoft and Lotus email, contacts and calendar items. Most operators already sell similar services but require customers to purchase specially made handhelds from Research In Motion (RIM), Good Technology, NEC and other manufacturers. Such devices can cost more than $200 each, whereas mobile phones are often free when customers sign up with an operator. NTT DoCoMo is partnering with Seven to deliver the new service, which is called Business Interface for Web Access Network (Binwan). European operators including O2 and Orange, which already offer services from Seven are currently deciding whether to upgrade to the new service. RIM, the developer of the BlackBerry device touted wireless corporate email access years ago, but there are still relatively few users of the technology worldwide compared with the number of actual wireless device owners. Bill Nguyen, co-founder of Seven said the high cost of the handhelds is one of the reasons. He said: "There are only a few hundred thousand BlackBerry users right now. There should be tens of millions." Mark Guibert, vice president at RIM, said his company is "competitive in all the markets we serve." A representative from Good Technology was not available for comment. But some say bringing corporate email to mobile phones is not all that it is hyped up to be. Stefano Landi, senior manager of business development at PalmSource said typing a detailed response on a phone's cramped keypad is a notoriously difficult and long process. He said: "There's no way I'm going to answer my email" on a mobile phone. Yet more operators are likely to give it a try and because NTT DoCoMo is the world's largest mobile phone provider, other companies often follow its lead. Similar services will likely appear first in Japan. Japanese equipment maker NEC, which also sells products from Seven, said it is trying to convince other Japanese carriers to offer such services. US operators Sprint PCS and Cingular Wireless, as well as European carriers O2 and Orange, use an earlier version of Seven products for their corporate subscribers. Ben Charny writes for CNET News.com
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