Nokia ups ante with new messaging suite

Company's Intellisync Mobile Suite 8.0 supports multiple e-mail platforms and devices, but whether adoption will extend beyond e-mail is unclear.

BANGKOK--Nokia's new Intellisync Mobile Suite 8.0 is likely to shore up the company's position in the enterprise mobility market, but whether adoption will extend beyond mobile e-mail remains to be seen, an analyst says.

The world's largest handset maker this week launched the Intellisync Mobile Suite 8.0, a blend of the Intellisync Mobile Suite and Nokia Business Center e-mail software, which was released in September 2005. The launch comes a year after Nokia finalized its acquisition of Intellisync, a provider of wireless messaging and e-mail software.

Speaking at a company showcase held here, Mathia Nalappan, Nokia's Asia-Pacific vice president for enterprise solutions, said the Intellisync Mobile Suite 8.0 is a platform that combines wireless e-mail, file synchronization and application synchronization, coupled with security, asset collection and device management functionalities.

Nalappan said that one of the key strengths of the Intellisync Mobile Suite is its ability to support a myriad of devices used on various messaging platforms. "We want to connect people with any device--not just Nokia devices--over any network, whether it's GSM, CDMA (code division multiple access) or Wi-Fi networks, to access corporate data in the backend of the enterprise," he said.

According to Nokia, Intellisync Mobile Suite 8.0 supports devices based on the Symbian, UIQ, Palm and Windows Mobile OS (operating system) platforms. Supported messaging tools include Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Notes, Novell Groupwise, as well as IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) and POP3 (Post Office Protocol) servers.

Shalini Verma, IDC's Asia-Pacific senior market analyst for enterprise mobility research, noted that while Nokia's platform and device-agnostic approach "may not necessarily be the biggest advantage, it does give Nokia a certain advantage from the solution flexibility perspective".

Verma told ZDNet Asia: "This offers alternatives to customers to pick and choose from an array of solutions. The device-agnostic approach clearly helps Nokia in meeting the needs of enterprises that want to extend mobile solutions to prosumers in the company.

However, she noted that the mobile maker's priorities will first be to push its own devices and mobile e-mail module.

"If the need arises, Nokia will demonstrate its flexibility in offering other options," she said. "Nokia's preferences in driving these third-party applications and devices will also depend on the support it receives from the solution partners."

Nalappan acknowledged that Nokia will tout its own offerings first. "We prefer that the best user experience be a complete offering from Nokia, but that's not our primary driver for getting the [Intellisync] solution into the enterprise," he told ZDNet Asia in an interview.

Intellisync Mobile Suite 8 is now also available at a different price point, costing US$129 per mobile client, down from US$160 previously. In addition, enterprises can buy the Mobile Suite server license for US$2,999 for unlimited use of the basic Mobile Suite e-mail client. However, businesses will have to pay more for additional functionalities such as file and application synchronization.

Offering unlimited use of the basic e-mail client, which come with some feature limitations, is a strategy that Nokia hopes will bolster mobile e-mail adoption. Nalappan said there is plenty of room for growth in the mobile e-mail space, with only 2 percent of the world's corporate inboxes mobilized today.

He added that enterprises deploying Mobile Suite 8 could look at the benefits of mobile e-mail, before deciding if they want to purchase the full-featured versions of mobile clients.

IDC's Verma also noted that the new pricing models will find favor in the Asia-Pacific region, where the cost of implementation is a significant deterrent to businesses.

However, even with enterprises increasingly looking at mobilizing other applications that enhance productivity, the IDC analyst noted that the adoption of Intellisync software modules--apart from mobile e-mail--is unclear.

"Having said that, once Nokia gets a foothold amongst the enterprises via the wireless e-mail module, pushing in the other modules will be a lot easier," Verma said.

Nalappan said getting businesses to mobilize their enterprise applications will be an evolutionary, rather than a revolutionary process. "The challenge for us and other industry players is to raise awareness and get channel partners to talk about [mobility] benefits," he said.

Analyst house Gartner noted in a November 2005 report that Nokia's Intellisync acquisition indicates a move from mobile communications vendors to buy platform-independent messaging players. Following the heels of Nokia, rival Motorola announced last November that it will acquire Good Technology. Gartner said Nokia has been trying for many years to enter the enterprise application and e-mail space, noting that Intellisync would let the company gain momentum and a much-needed customer base for its enterprise intentions.

In addition, Intellisync would also help Nokia compensate for the shortcomings of its Nokia Business Center platform in mobile application support.

The results have been worthwhile. Nalappan said the Intellisync acquisition has since added 21 new operator customers around the world, with two in Asia. Intellisync is also used by 1.2 million e-mail subscribers, up from under 500,000 users before the acquisition, according to Nalappan.

Aaron Tan of ZDNet Asia reported from Bangkok, Thailand.