Nokia is to offer its own push email solution to enterprises. The move follows similar launches by other equipment vendors, including Ericsson and Siemens, but shows a more radical vision in terms of positioning and business model. Nokia says its Nokia Business Centre product is aimed at expanding the mobile email market beyond its current niche status and towards “the masses”. It insists that its partnerships with other email players, notably Research In Motion (RIM), will remain in place. Nevertheless, Nokia intends to price its own product much more cheaply. The server software that sits behind the corporate firewall will be 20-30% cheaper than RIM’s equivalent.
More radically, the client software for the basic version of the product will be sold with unlimited distribution rights. Nokia (unlike RIM) will not charge a per-user fee for the client software.
This means that Nokia’s carrier customers will have the opportunity to sell to enterprise at a lower price than has been the case until now. Nokia argues that the high price of entry is what has kept the penetration of mobile email so low. For some months now, Nokia has been saying that mobile email will soon reach a jumping-off point where penetration rates will grow rapidly. It says that its solution will help to facilitate this, and that it wants to take email to places “where RIM can’t be because of economic and design decisions”.
The client software comes in two versions; basic, which allows users to manage their inboxes – essentially to read, reply to, forward and delete messages; and advanced, which allows attachment handling, folder management and PIM synchronisation. The advanced version of the client will be available via a paid-for upgrade, and can be downloaded over the air. Nokia is betting that customers will take the basic version, become comfortable with it, and then upgrade.
The client can run on any Java MIDPI 2.0-capable phone, once certified by Nokia. Initially, it will work on higher-end Nokia devices, including the Nokia 9300 smartphone, Nokia 9500 Communicator, as well as the Nokia 6630, Nokia 6680, Nokia 6681 and Nokia 6682. On the server side, it will integrate with Microsoft Exchange Server 2003, followed shortly by support for Lotus Notes and Domino, and an expanded range of Nokia-certified devices. The product will be sold principally through carriers. Nokia’s Enterprise Solutions division hopes that IT resellers and systems integrators will also act as distribution channels.
While Nokia is happy to make price and architecture comparisons with RIM, it is relatively quiet on how its client server communications protocol measures up. RIM’s design optimises transmission by using some hefty compression, thereby reducing the data that is actually carried over the air interface; this is one reason why its Blackberry solution works so well over relatively limited GPRS networks, and why it is in no rush to introduce a UMTS version of its devices. Nokia is unwilling to say much about how well its own protocol works, but admits that it is still working on compression.