Business and Consumer Cell Phones Merging

Hitherto, mobile email for businesspeople has been provided via technologies such as those from RIM and Windows Mobile. Consumer email has been handled by other technologies. Longer term, the separation will probably erode:

  • Users will want a very powerful handheld for their own purposes. Their personal needs will generally require hardware that's a superset of what's needed for their business applications.
  • Bandwidth required for business applications will be less than or comparable to that needed for personal applications.
  • Generally, handsets will belong to the user, rather than to the organization that employs the user.
  • Handsets will be perceived as mainly devices used in peoples' lives, rather than as things used primarily for work.
  • Users will buy the handsets they want and the carriers they want; their organizations may pay a portion of the hardware and network fees.

Email and instant messaging are very important business applications on handhelds, and -- especially email -- have driven RIM's success.

Now consider what's happening at Oz, which specializes in email and instant messaging technology for mobile phones. It sells its software to handset carriers and mobile operators that embed the technology and sell it to end users. In short, it's ultimately a consumer pitch.

Oz has just launched Oz SmartMail, designed for smartphones. This is moving closer to the needs of business:

  • Dynamically synchronizing email with the device.
  • Background transfers of emails.
  • Foldering.
  • Offline mail access.
  • Attachments (ability to view/access depends on third-party support on the mobile device).

Oz is holding off pitching business for the moment, and probably wisely so. But it's not hard to see a gradual convergence of business and consumer email and IM capabilities.

... David Ferris

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