Orange push email trial nearly complete

Newham Council has been testing Windows Mobile 5.0, and it says it's happy with the results

A London borough used as a Microsoft showcase has almost completed testing its push technology, which automatically sends new emails straight from a corporate mailserver to mobile devices as they arrive.

Newham began trialling Microsoft Windows Mobile 5.0 last year, in conjunction with Orange. This included a Web-based tool, Orange Mobile Manager, that "allows IT departments to set up Windows Mobile email across hundreds of devices without manually configuring each one," according to Orange.

"So far everything is working nicely, we haven't quite finished the trial — we are still in discussions with Orange for the best way of pricing the service," Geoff Connell, Newham's deputy head of ICT, told ZDNet UK on Tuesday.

"We like the fact that we can use this technology out of the box with our existing Windows Mobile 5 devices, Microsoft Exchange and XP SP2, at a minimal cost," added Connell.

The borough said interoperability between its mobile devices and application development platforms was a key factor.

"It was important for us to be able to use the technology on a variety of different devices, from ruggedised handsets through to BlackBerry devices, using a .Net framework," said Connell.

Executive managers, social care staff and educational support staff have all been testing the push email services, as have street-based workers such as parking attendants.

Newham was considering moving to open source products three years ago, but eventually agreed to a partnership with Microsoft under which it uses its operating systems, applications, and application development platforms.

"It's going very well with Microsoft — it is a large organisation with deep pockets. When we see a project they help us to make it happen," said Connell.

One current research project Newham is developing with Microsoft is an application that enables the user to "push a button" to record their current location.

"It's an application developed on .Net framework. You run the program, push a button, and the position of the device goes into the CRM. The intention is that this will be location aware through GPS using mobile devices, developed with Microsoft, with both partners providing funding," said Connell.

Orange announced on Wednesday that its push email service based on Windows Mobile 5.0 will be commercially available from 3 April.