Orange unleashes pay-as-you-go road warriors

No cash up front...

No cash up front...

Orange has unveiled a suite of applications for travelling sales and service professionals which it will charge for on a subscription model. Through a partnership with wireless middleware company Pervasic, Orange's system will allow companies to connect their itinerant employees with company databases using Orange's wireless data networks. The service seeks to provide a wireless front end for a company's existing CRM system, using either GPRS or a circuit-switched data connection. The most interesting aspect of the new system is the business model - what Orange calls the 'managed platform' approach. Rather than charging up front for a huge development project, and then just collecting call revenues, Orange will charge for the system on a periodic basis but with no upfront fee. Like signing up for a mobile contract, customers will have to sign up for a minimum 12-month period, to make sure that Orange recovers the cost of developing and deploying the system. The pricing model is designed to appeal to IT managers who find it difficult to justify the up front costs of developing such a system in-house. In a similar way to the ASP or web services model, the managed platform system is designed to transfer some of the project risk away from the customer and on to the network operator. This approach is also more scalable and can be accounted for as a cost rather than capital expenditure. Unlike a true ASP, though, the customer still hosts the applications themselves, on their existing hardware. The move is the second of Orange's Managed Platform offerings, following a wireless data entry product for clinical pharmaceutical trials, announced in April. Julian Phillips, head of customer solutions at Orange, said that the company will be looking to deploy more services on the same basis: "We don't want to put a lot of services out there and then not support them. When it comes to partnerships, less is definitely more."