S'pore startup takes on BlackBerry market

update Software vendor Mozat wants to be "the Google of the mobile world" by offering a free Java-based application suite, designed to bring enterprise-class tools to the masses.
Written by Aaron Tan, Contributor

update SINGAPORE--A local startup has unveiled a Java-based mobile application suite that could give Blackberry a run for its money.

According to Michael Yin, CEO of Singapore-based Mozat, the company's mOrange software for cellphones combines commonly-used Internet services into a single application.

Developed by a 10-man development team, mOrange includes push e-mail, RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds, Webcam, remote desktop access, calendaring and contact list services, Yin said. The tools, developed at a cost of S$500,000 (US$308,900), are platform-independent and work on top of 3G (Third-Generation) and GPRS (general packet radio service) cellular networks.

"We hope to be the Google of the mobile world," Yin said, adding that the software and its accompanying services will be offered for free. mOrange will be officially launched in June this year.

Mozat is targeting young professionals and students who may not have ready access to Research In Motion's Blackberry push-email devices. Future iterations of the software would allow the company to provide paid services such as Internet telephony, Yin said.

Beta testing for mOrange started in February this year, and Mozat has since gathered more than 100 users who signed up to evaluate and provide feedback on the product, Yin said.

"We hope to attract 500 million users within the next three to five years," he said.

The push e-mail tool in mOrange can be deployed by users of Web-based e-mail services such as Gmail, as well as corporate e-mail applications based on Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Notes and POP (Post Office Protocol).

Yin said POP e-mail support means companies no longer need a BlackBerry server or purchase server software from the likes of Good Technology, to deliver push e-mail to employees' mobile devices. Telecommuters can also reply to and send e-mail messages on the go, together with file attachments, according to Yin.

He also assured cellphone users that the mOrange service is reliable, and that the company is mindful about ensuring data security.

"Our infrastructure is made up of both Windows and Linux servers, and can support up to 100,000 concurrent users," he explained. "User data is also encrypted with SSL (Secure Socket Layer) technology, and is as secure as the BlackBerry service."

Mozat's company profile
Founded in 2002, Mozat received first-round funding worth S$600,000 (US$370,860) from Singapore's Economic Development Board and the National University of Singapore.
The company is now in talks with several venture capitalists in Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States, to secure another round of funds that will be pumped into product research and development.

Another popular feature among mOrange beta testers, Yin said, is remote desktop, where users can drag-and-drop files into a designated folder on their PCs and access it through their mobile devices. "This allows sales representatives, for example, to [browse the folder and] pull out product brochures for their customers directly via their mobile phones," he explained.

With the push RSS, he added, users will be automatically informed each time their favorite Web sites are updated, including stock alerts, entertainment news and blogs.

mOrange users also can view live camera feeds of locations that have public Webcams, such as those offered by local shopping mall, Wisma Atria. They can also watch video streams from Webcams that are attached to their PCs, on their cellphones, Yin said, noting this application can be used for surveillance purposes. He added that this service can be used to stream live traffic video, and monitor traffic conditions, of major highways and roads in Singapore.

Several local and overseas telecoms operators are currently evaluating mOrange, Yin said. He could not put a time frame on when the telcos would introduce the software to their subscribers, or identify the telcos due to confidentiality agreements.

Yin noted that as telcos face falling revenues from voice traffic, applications such as mOrange could encourage consumption of data services among cellphone users, and increase the service provider's average revenues per user.

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