For years, wireless mobile workers have juggled multiple e-mail
accounts because they can't access corporate e-mail or information. That could
As promised late last year, Ericsson and Microsoft have consummated the creation
of a joint venture company aimed at delivering solutions for operators to enable
wireless e-mail access for corporate and consumer customers. Compaq Computer
and Nokia have also teamed up, but they will sell their platform to enterprise
customers that can then create services allowing employees to access their intranets.
In the past, security problems hampered the rollout of such services.
"More of these announcements can be expected over the next 18 months. They
have to happen now to get the systems implemented before higher-speed networks
are up," said Larry Swasey, senior vice president of communications research
at Allied Business Intelligence.
These new players believe the hurdles to enabling remote wireless access of
corporate information may be disappearing. In November 1998, Microsoft and Qualcomm
formed a joint venture, Wireless Knowledge, that experienced early delays in
Critics suggested that delays may have occurred because Wireless Knowledge
hit a brick wall when working with corporate information technology (IT) managers
to bypass firewalls. Early this year, the venture changed its tune by marketing
server software directly to enterprises, rather than targeting wireless operators
with a hosted solution.
The change in direction may have worked for Wireless Knowledge, which scored
a major coup earlier this month when Sprint PCS said its nationwide sales force
will market the Wireless Knowledge product to enterprises, and that Sprint PCS
is using the product internally.
Security issues and working with IT departments are two of the biggest roadblocks
to the success of wireless access to intranets, observers said.
"Once you get beyond the IT guys, the technology challenge is fairly well-known,"
said Justin Webb, chief strategist at ViAir, a provider of hosted services,
including wireless access to corporate e-mail. As IT managers recognize the
productivity possibilities of wireless access, they are growing more open to
the idea, he said.
In addition, vendors continue to develop security solutions.
"Once people start respecting the level of security provided by VPNs [virtual
private networks] and the security offered through third-party providers,
then the issue of whether it's wireless or not is moot," said Ahmed Al-Hayderi,
vice president of business development at Nokia's Internet communications group.
Remote access to corporate information is widely available today, typically
via laptops and dial-up connections. As wireless devices become as widespread
as laptops within the enterprise, and security solutions become more credible,
wireless access should become more accepted by corporations, observers said.
The introduction of higher wireless data speeds could also spur the market
for wireless corporate access services. "The obstacles to date have been lack
of networks with high-speed access and security," Swasey said.
Companies offering enabling technologies are approaching the market from different
angles, which all may prove successful, industry executives said. Compaq, Nokia
and Wireless Knowledge market products to the enterprise, while the Ericsson-Microsoft
joint venture offers products to wireless operators. ViAir offers services on
a hosted basis.
"I don't think one will dominate," Swasey said. Each approach will likely appeal
to the different needs of customers, he said.