Friday, October 31, 2008

When Android beats the iPhone

Today I discovered two reasons why Android might beat the iPhone, eventually. One, it is open source (ok, I am kidding, I did know that before ;-) Two, it has OTA firmware update.

As you might recall, I complained about the email client on the phone. Not the Gmail one, the other one. The POP/IMAP client. Apparently, I was not alone. Pretty much everyone has been complaining about the connection error I have with POP. The Tmobile support forum currently shows 229 messages on this topic...

Bottom line: T-Mobile botched this one. Google could not care less (Gmail works nice) but the mobile operator should have been more careful. People are returning the device to the store, because there has not been a fix (yet).

Why does open source help? Well, on the Android Market a new email client appeared a few days ago. It is called K9. It is a fork of the original Android client (which is open source). It has more features than the original one and, not surprisingly, it fixes the issue above.

This is great. A week or so ago Google was alone in developing Android. They made it open source and boom, an internal application is getting perfected by the community. End user benefit from it immediately, because they can download it for free from the Android Market (which is such an easy task to do). The OS allows you to define a default email client, so you are good to go.

All this, without any intervention of Google or T-Mobile. The community fixed the issue for T-Mobile... You have to love this one if you are a mobile operator.

What would have happened with the iPhone? Probably, Apple would not have released an application that buggy in the first place, but... you would have had to wait for the next firmware update. Hoping the fix would be added (and, believe me, I have been frustrated by the lack of copy&paste in the iPhone for 18 months and there is no fix in sight...). You do not have to rely on Apple. You can rely on the community as well.

When it comes to firmware update, here is a good one. Android does it over-the-air (OTA). You receive a message, click on it, wait a few minutes and your are done. No iTunes, no cable. Pushed to your phone. At the moment, it is a bit random (some got RC29 already, some did not) and they should make the process more transparent. But it is a great innovation over the iPhone.

Nice to see Apple has to catch up, once in a while...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Time to be aggressive, if you can

The state of the economy is scaring everyone, rightly so. I do not think it is going to get better soon, actually I feel it is going to get worse. A couple of weeks ago, I opened a management meeting with the Sequoia slides, just to set the tone... This is serious stuff. Companies that do not have cash flowing in and have 6/9 months of cash in the bank are toasted. If they do not cut 50% of the workforce now and give themselves at least 18 months, they are gone. If they do, their product and sales stop. I feel we will see a devastation in 2009.

Mobile is not immune, but it will be affected much less. People might buy less phones (although they still do, like they buy new clothes), but they definitely lose or break the old ones... This market is too hot to slow down too much. It will slow down, but significant growth will be still there.

Open source will be a relative safe heaven. When everyone is cutting cost, do you think an enterprise will go for a $50/month BlackBerry Enterprise solution or will they download an open source project, and run it for free? Well... You know my answer ;-)

Now, what do you do if you are in mobile, you have cash flowing in and you just raised 12.5M dollars? On top of it, you are open source and you built a company to be run lean and mean?

First, you make it leaner and meaner ;-) Out fly the free jelly beans for the employees...

Second, you become aggressive.

I am ready to bet a lot of our competitors will be out of business or acquired in 2009. Many - some are public so it is easy to see - have net burn rate of millions a quarter, with the need of raising cash in 2009. Good luck with that.

Therefore, if you are on top of your game, this is the time to go for the kill. If we do not do it, who can?

Today, in an announcement that PR people call "momentum release" we are telling the world that:
  1. We are selling like crazy... We had another record quarter. This is the best news of all. Actually, the word I am hearing from prospects these days is "It is URGENT". I never heard this before... It is a very nice indication of how badly service providers need to launch a MobileWe solution.
  2. We won some more awards. I am not a big believer in awards (I prefer sales ;-) but I am a competitive person and winning is always a pleasure. Coming #1 as the best mobile consumer email solution in a contest is a good thing (and thanks for voting me a visionary for the third year in a row... I am not sure what that means but I am told it is good :-)
  3. We are expanding in markets where we did not have a presence: Beijing and Dubai. It is a smart move, I believe. We hedge the risk of one of the world markets going down. We have presence now in the US, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. If the US comes to a halt, China might not. This is the time to expand, not retreat.
Bottom line: when things are down, it is time to look up. We are in a tunnel but there is light at the end for those that have the means to get there. If you are one of the few that can make it, this might be the best time to build a company to last and grab market share. GO for it.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Motorola focusing on Android: why it is big news

Today, the Wall Street Journal pretty much reported that Motorola will cut any other operating system to focus on Android. It was the co-CEO talking about it, not some Joe (the Motorola) on the street.

I wrote "pretty much" because they also said they will keep support for Windows Mobile and P2K (their legacy platform for low end devices). Moving away from about half dozen operating systems is already big news. However, if you look closely, he also said they will "outsource" the development on Windows Mobile. A nice way to say "we are not going to focus on it anymore but we still have some business there, so we will not kill it". What about P2K? Well, same as above. It is for low end devices and Motorola has many of them (in particular, in emerging markets), but Android can support middle and high end devices, and that is the future of mobility. Low end devices will disappear quite quickly.

Motorola is focusing all its mobile future on Android. This is the big news.

It is big news for Motorola (and very sad news for the tons of employees that will get a lay-off tomorrow when they announce their numbers), but it is even bigger for Android - and mobile open source in general.

I have been playing with Android. I am still trying to use the G1, but I am about to give up. The hardware is horrible, but the software is very good. And open. Including the source code of all the internal apps being available out there (I browsed through it, it is quite a remarkable amount of code).

What is missing with the G1, to make it a killer device? The device itself... The internal is good, the external is bad.

What does Android need? An hardware vendor that focuses on it. Someone with a big brand. Someone that can come up with a very cool device.

Motorola is that company.

It is easy to discount Motorola. However, look at how strong their brand still is (hey, NFL coaches have the Motorola headset...). And remember they came up with the best selling mobile device ever, the RAZR. It has been the killer device for years. Still the most sold device around.

Motorola can do it again. With focus completely on mobile open source and Android, they can rise again. This is what Android needed (badly). This is what could have prevented Android from becoming a big player in the mobile market.

Not anymore. It is another good day for mobile open source.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Funambol on the Android Market (and the G1)

I spent some quality time last week with Carlo Codega, the developer in our community who built the Android client. He is in Italy and I have the G1, so it made sense for us to work together and build a version ready for the G1 (and the Android Market).

This morning, as soon as the Market opened, the Funambol client has been uploaded on the Android Market. If you have a G1, you can check it out right now. It allows to sync your address book with a SyncML server (such as the free, which gives you over-the-air sync with Outlook or Thunderbird or any other client we support. Also, if you have a new G1, it allows you to migrate your existing contacts from your phone to the G1 (sync first with your old phone, then with the G1). Your old phone could be a dumb phone, but also an iPhone, BlackBerry or Windows Mobile. We support all of them.

I learned a lot from this process, as usual.

First, developing for Android is not as easy as one would like it to be. Intent and Activity are concepts that make sense, but it takes a moment to get used to them. Our original version had the Action for Settings which was a bit too generic: you clicked on Settings and all the apps that registered for the View action would pop up... When we made it application specific, everything worked. You could not tell it from the emulator, since there you have just one application (yours)... In general, I found the process of compiling and getting the apps on the phone - including debugging over the cable - quite easy. Good job there by Google.

Second, the Gmail sync is very transparent but it has bugs. Some contacts get duplicated in the process. Weird things happen around "Suggested Contacts", the people you replied to from Gmail. On Thursday, they were appearing on the phone as "hidden" (but screwing up our sync), then they became totally visible. I am sure many will complain. If you use Gmail, you might have hundreds of emails as suggested contacts. I replied to a mailing list of my neighborhood (where the people were put in CC) once, and I ended up with hundreds of neighbors email addresses on the G1. I love them but I do not want them on my phone ;-)

Third, posting on the Android Market was a breeze. Past the $25 I had to pay (does Google really need that money??), I had to fill up a form, upload the app and voila' it showed up on my phone. No questions asked. No Apple police to check it out. It felt, well, open.. And I like open ;-)

Lastly, the security environment for Android seems quite strong. I browsed around the file system, but everything was shut down. Every application is its own user (in the Unix sense) and has its own subdirectory to play with. No permissions to go around and screw up the system. I am still missing a file browser and a tool to send files out (you can't attach them to emails), but I am sure they will come shortly.

Overall, it has been a good experience. I have to say I am pleased with the OS, environment for developers and market. The hardware is a different story, but it is not tight to the OS. We'll see better ones (I hope, for Google!).

Few tips if you are planning to use the 0.1 Funambol Sync Client for Android:
1. there are some bugs left (that is why Carlo calls it 0.1 ;-) For example, it does not support foreign characters (your contact will be displayed with its phone number) and contacts with First Name but no Last Name will show up as ",FirstName". Use it at your own risk.
2. if you do not want Gmail automatic sync to screw things up, uncheck the automatic sync for contacts (Settings -> Data Synchronization -> Contacts).

Enjoy and let Carlo know how things are looking. He is busy preparing for an exam (Wednesday), so... better leave him alone for the next two days ;-)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Because open source people like a good debate...

There is a discussion going on in one of our forums. The topic is AGPLv3.

For those that do not remember what AGPLv3 is (shame on you! I have a bet with Mark Radcliffe to win ;-)... AGPL is the GPLv3 variation that adds distribution of Software as a Service as one of the triggers for returning the code to the community. In practical terms, it makes distribution of SaaS as any other distribution (like in a floppy). If you host AGPL code and make changes to it, you have to return the changes to the community. Exactly as if you were distributing that code in a floppy.

AGPLv3 has been created by the Free Software Foundation (same people who did GPLv3) and approved by OSI as an "official" open source license (thanks to the submission of Funambol).

What is the discussion about? A crazy detail that does not make any sense. But we open source people like crazy details...

The problem is due to us releasing our clients with AGPL as well (same as for the server). It does not make sense, because the clients are not used in a server, so the A in AGPL is never triggered. We could have released them as GPLv3. However, we thought it would be dumb not to give it an A, with the idea that someone might reuse that code to build a gateway or a server (see... we are forward thinking ;-)

Clearly, the A in AGPL (section 13) applies if the code is used in a SaaS mode. If you use the code in a client and you do not offer it as a service, it is exactly as GPLv3. Section 13 does not apply. Period.

Thankfully, the Free Software Foundation has added now a comment in the FAQ that kills the debate (they agree with me, so... I won the debate!).

Sometimes, being too forward looking might be a bad idea. But if you like debates as we do in open source, then it is not ;-)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The G in G1 stands for Garage

My fearless office manager circled around her local T-Mobile store last night. First at midnight (no lines), then at 3 am (no lines), then finally at 7 am. She was fourth in line and came back to the office sleepless but with a prized T-Mobile Android G1 phone for me. I actually asked her only to be there at 7 am to get me one, but the people at Funambol always go 101% to get the job done (and I am very proud of them).

So I have a G1 in my hands. I played around with it extensively today. Tonight I am planning to go deeper into the file system and play with applications outside the Android Market (that has only 50 apps, the rest will start appearing on the 27th, when the market will actually open).

The first impression must be on the device itself, not what is inside. I could give you my perspective, but I feel my fashion-conscious Italian wife summarized it all today. She saw I had a new gadget and asked me "what's that, a new garage door opener?". Yep, it is that ugly.

That said, it is not just the look... The sliding keyboard is hard to use, due to the bulky thingy at the end (the one with the buttons to open the garage). If you try to type while charging the device, it is almost impossible. I never thought I would miss the virtual keyboard of the iPhone...

I have to admit I never liked the idea of a sliding keyboard. Changing mode is a no no in usability. And it shows. You are browsing with the vertical screen and you need to type a URL? Go landscape, type the URL, then come back vertical. Worst: you are in your car and need to call someone? In order to type their name, you have to slide the keyboard out, type, click than go vertical again (without crashing the car, knowing you are also violating the law in California). It is quite bad.

The inside is much nicer. Not just because it is open source (that, you can't see). The GUI is smooth, the home page looks good, the Google integration is well done.

The only negative? It is just Google for now. You have to put in your Google credentials when you start the phone for the first time. It loads Gmail, contacts and calendar. Nice and smooth.

Do you want to use any other email? Forget it. The email client (the second one, they have two... one Gmail and one Email) is plainly horrible.

I tried setting my work IMAP email. It took an hour to download all my folders... Also, I am so unlucky to have called the company Funambol, and have hundreds of folders beneath it: Inbox starts with I and comes after F of Funambol. I never got to see the Inbox. When it showed up, it then disappeared again. Just unusable. I gave up after trying for at least an hour (I swear. I care about mobile email...).

So I tried POP. Much better (it gets only the Inbox) but the scheduled POP never worked. For the whole day, I was never notified of a new email...

On top of it, the client has no attachment support. A very disappointing experience.

Then I tested the Market: it worked flawlessly. I downloaded a Barcode Scanner app which allows you to take a picture of a barcode and sends you to the Google Product page of it. Very interesting. You can check a book in a bookstore and see how much it actually cost to buy it online. The end of brick and mortar store, dot come style.

GPS: average. Wifi: pretty good. Calls (hey, it is a phone as well, you know): no issues. Maps: very nice, with the cool Street View feature that you will never use once in your life (but it is still cool so it is worth it). Browser: vastly inferior to the iPhone. Music: same as before. Camera: not bad.

I also tried to download some apps online (outside the Market). If you have an .apk file somewhere and you download it with the browser, it gets installed. I tried the Funambol client, it installed perfectly but it needs some work (Carlo is working on it, I believe). I tried a ssh client, same experience.

My brain works in a strange way (surprise!): I never have expectations. I just experience life as it comes and that has served me reasonably well along the years. Very hard to be disappointed when you did not have high expectations of something.

This is the case for the G1 as well. I did not have any expectation for this device. I disliked the hardware, but I liked the software (although it needs some more work). Nothing compared to the reaction I had when I opened the box of the iPhone, the first day it went on sale. It was an emotional experience. It still is (when I look at it in the charger, I just want to pick it up and play with it). The book "Emotional Design" (a must buy) describes why I might feel this way. Definitely, no emotions on the G1 for me...

Overall, it looks like a good thing for Google (since the software is ok), but not a smash hit. I will be very very surprised if they sell a ton of G1s. Developers will buy it. Some Google maniac will buy it. But it is going to fade very fast.

Unless they can add a garage opener application on the Market. For that purpose, it looks great.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Lion Sniper (roarrr ;-)

Today we announced a sequel to our two very successful sniper programs: the Lion Sniper. The program focuses on translating Funambol software, online help and the Funambol Community Forge into many foreign languages.

Localization (or L10n, if you wondered where the name came from...) has always been a key contribution by open source communities. Due to the geographical distribution and local needs, one of the first community effort has always been localization.

A company wants to support an open source project in a country? First thing they do is translating the product in the local language. And they return it back to the community. Very simple and effective. Also for the open source project.

After having a community member translating the Funambol Forge into Chinese earlier this year, we have seen our adoption rates in China skyrocket. That translates into sales, so it is a nice positive feedback.

So much that we are pushing this forward, setting bounties for $250 for those that are willing to translate the community stuff in their language. If you are interested, check it out.

Apparently, Savio at InfoWorld agrees (thanks!).

Monday, October 20, 2008

Open Source in Mobile Challenges

Today I bumped into an interesting opinion piece called "Open Source in Mobile Phones: Challenges for Software Vendors" by Adam Leach, principal analyst at Ovum.

Adam analyzes the current mobile environment, the emerging growth of open source and how ISVs need to evolve to meet new customer expectations.

In particular:
"ISVs need to be familiar with open source environments to be able to respond to demands to integrate customers' solutions into those environments. In addition, OEMs and operators will start to expect similar levels of transparency and collaboration on key areas of interest for them. As a result, ISVs will need to evolve their business practices to meet these new expectations, in some cases embracing an open source business model."
So... you better familiarize yourself with open source because it is here to stay. Then you have to find a way to make money, which is even tougher (but there are ways ;-)

Lastly, he gives tips on how to integrate an open source software into an ISV offering and what to look for: features, license, support and indemnification. All of them are usually provided by commercial open source companies based on a dual licensing model. If you go outside it, you risk to be screwed (but not always, so just be careful).

I believe it is a must read, if you are looking at embedding open source into your product - mobile or not.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The incredible world of Google syncing

Today is the day some people received the Android G1 (not me, where the #@!$# is it? I want mine :-) Google has started to publicize some of the features, so it is now getting interesting.

What many people do not know is that the Android SDK has a very limited set of applications. Therefore, nobody in the developer community has seen what is going to be on the phone. Google (and the OHA) add apps on Android phones based on carrier request - so it seems - and many of those applications won't ever appear on the SDK. Some very basic, like calendar for example. Now we can finally see it. But we still can't have an API for it (remember the iPhone?). However, hacking is supposed to be easy (and legal). We'll see.

What is clear is that the phone is Google Google Google (surprise!). You access the phone with your Gmail username and password - you have to have one... Magically, email, contacts and calendar from Google will show up on the phone. And they will be kept in sync.

The magic of sync, from a Google engineer:
"It occurred to us that the best way to synchronize these various pieces of information is to let the device do it on its own while you're not looking, so you never have to think about it."
It is great (hey, did they steal one of my lines?? I should have trademarked it ;-) as long as you use Google. If you don't, you are going to have to use a separate crappy email app (one that does not even support attachments...) and suffer. Those that might have two email addresses or even work (!!!) would be in trouble. Two apps, different, not integrated. One good and one bad. One with push and one not. One synced and one not. With the need of merging your work and home address book into one. Same for calendar.

Then you have to give both to Google to store and own: ask your IT at work if they like the idea...

I am not surprised. The Android phone is Google. Nothing else. We'll see if the open source angle of it will surface, one day. It would be nice. Otherwise, it would just be an empty marketing statement. And empty marketing statement backfire in open source...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

BlackBerry storming the enterprise?

I have been following all the announcements of smartphones these days. Even Motorola came out with a touchscreen phone today...

The most interesting (actually, probably the only interesting...) has been the BlackBerry Storm. Clearly, I have a particular affection for RIM. I like the company and the focus on R&D. I like the way they addressed one single problem (mobile email) and nailed it from start to finish. I like the stronghold they have in the enterprise and their business model (the recurring part of it, in particular).

However, they have been struggling lately. They tried the move towards consumers (hey, if you have a pink phone, you are going for consumers, no questions). But they have not been that successful. It is a brand issue, in my opinion. And a fashion one.

The technology might be good but the brand is not there. It is an enterprise brand. Not a consumer brand. Consumers perceive BlackBerry as uncool. It is tough to change it. RIM is trying with advertising, getting in bed with Fabebook and MySpace, but it is tough tough tough. You do not become Steve Jobs overnight. And it costs a lot of money, with margin going down fast.

My take on RIM making into the consumer space? Tough...

Where can they shine? In the enterprise. They still have 98% of the enterprise to capture. They are entrenched. They have to make sure nobody gets in. Like the iPhone. Or the Android phones. Or the Windows Mobile ones. Or Nokia.

I feel the Storm is a smart move in this direction. You have to give enterprise people a little of coolness (music, pictures, some social networking), being strong on your basic values (email), and improve on the competition.

I mean, do something better than the iPhone. Not copycat.

I haven't tried the device but the #1 complain by enterprise users (NOT consumers) on the iPhone is the lack of a keyboard. Adding a sliding keyboard is a bad idea, in my opinion (I just do not like the feel, the added size and the usability of it). Making the touchscreen give you a tactile feedback, instead, is a brilliant idea. If it works as they say (why not?), it could be an home run in the enterprise.

Not with consumers. Give up on that and focus on your core (look at Nokia trying to do the exact opposite and fail in the consumer space...).

Below you find a video of the BlackBerry Storm for Vodafone.

Unalbe to show flash video

Monday, October 13, 2008

Windows Mobile on an iPhone?

Ok, it does not make too much sense, but someone has done it: a Norwegian developer has ported Windows Mobile to the iPhone. Obviously, it will have to be jailbroken. And it is only for super geeks, but it is neat. And it will be open source ;-) The video is below. It looks quite real...

My question is: who in the world would take out the awesome UI of the iPhone to put in the horrible Windows Mobile one??? But this a question for another time...

Lastly, count the days for Android on the iPhone. I bet it will be here before the end of Q1 2009.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Microsoft buying RIM? It makes sense...

The rumor mill today is producing an interesting news: Microsoft might be thinking of buying RIM. This is one of the million rumors that might not mean anything, but it is a good one...

Would it make sense? I believe so.

Microsoft is missing a HW play in mobile. They do not have a device. They are fighting against two vendors, Apple and Nokia, that have devices (and services, and operating systems, but so does Microsoft). It has been proven (so far, open source is changing this) that it is nearly impossible to deliver a great experience without controlling the full chain: from the device, to the operating system, to the service (and RIM has been phenomenal at device and service, not that much on the OS in my opinion).

Microsoft being a HW company? Yes, they do it already, with the Xbox. It is not that far from what they are doing.

Why not doing a device from scratch, then? Well, it takes two/three years (too much) and RIM is so cheap today that they would make money just buying the stock... The BlackBerry Storm looks like a spectacular device, even solving the issue of tactile feedback on a no-keyboard device. They have more coming. And they have a full grip on the high end of the enterprise market.

Imagine RIM+Microsoft together in the enterprise, when Nokia just abandoned it and Apple has no intention to get into it. It would be a near monopoly, excluding open source. It would be so much fun... David and Goliath... Nice thought for the weekend ;-)

When the world is collapsing...

It feels so good to have cash in the bank and a solid company ;-) And people that share their love. I am not looking at my 401K today... but I am definitely reading this email a few times:
Dear sir or madam,
I am writing to you because I tested several solutions to sync a
Windows mobile device with an online service. In particular I am
interested in contacts and calendar sync. The best software I could
possibly find, was unquestionably yours. [..]

Congratulations, I do believe that your software is really great..

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The time for mobile ads is now

What happens when the economy collapses? Everyone cuts costs. The enterprise do it (and they go for open source solutions). Consumer do it as well.

What sells when the economy collapses? FREE...

How do you offer free services, still making money? Advertising.

The time for ads in mobile is now. This market is the only - in my view - that has not been affected by the economy (yet). People still want the latest cool gadget, and services. But they want to pay for them less and less.

The real issue is that nobody knows how people will react to mobile ads. I personally believe consumer won't be bothered by a micro-banner, if it is not intrusive and it is even made useful (e.g. an offer for a taxi ride with a single-click to call, when I really need it).

At Funambol, we are in a unique position to try it out. We provide the #1 application for mobile devices: messaging (remember, the phone is a communication device, you talk or message, 95% of the time). We have tons of users. And a free demo site, where we try the latest and greatest stuff (ok, sometime it makes it a bit unstable, but it is a demo site in beta ;-) called myFunambol.

Therefore, we have decided to launch mobile ads on myFunambol. The goal is not to make money on it (you do not make money on a demo site... and we are making lots of money selling the stable and complete version of it to service providers). The goal is to try it out and see the users reaction. Get a feeling if our email client is used less because of it, or if nothing changes. And check how frequently people act on ads. Gather all this info and share it back with the market.

If you have a Nokia Series 60 or a Motorola V3XX phone and you want to participate in this effort, sign up on myFunambol (or download the new client from the configuration page).

Initial feedback seems pretty good. I believe this comment from a user on Ostatic sums it up:
"Funambol offers a great service. Need to keep them going. A few ads never hurt anyone, as long as they don't start texting crap and making users pay."
Making open source free. I just love it ;-)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Mobile email in the enterprise

There is a very interesting article on RCR Wireless this week, about mobile email in the enterprise. The analysis starts from Nokia abandoning Intellisync and giving up the enterprise play. Since last week, our phone has been ringing, so I have to say I cannot complain...

What is happening in the enterprise market?

First, there is RIM. BlackBerry is dominant. It is the end-to-end solution. Something a manager had to have, to look managerial. Even if very expensive. Now, the scenario is changing quickly.
  1. BlackBerry is not a must-have for managers anymore, actually it looks kinda not-cool. iPhone is cool. BlackBerry is uncool. You do not have iFartz for the BlackBerry.
  2. Cost is a dominant issue. More than ever. Let the economy slip a bit more and we'll have wholesale panic in the IT groups, driven by CFOs. Only the CEO and few top managers will get BlackBerry. Everyone else can be cool with its own device.
The alternative is Microsoft. Its ActiveSync client is getting installed on many devices. Most enterprises have Exchange and the server component comes with it. What about this solution?
  1. The price looks right. Although if you talk to IT Managers, they will tell you to buy more Exchange licenses to support the mobile users. At the end, you might have to double the amount of your Exchange licenses, if you want everyone to have mobile access. Not cheap (at all).
  2. Windows Mobile works well, anything else... not quite well. And your CEO will be upset because its BlackBerry surely does not work. And the rest of the company might still complain because their device is not well supported, so the IT Manager says no...
What is left? Nothing else than open source, in my opinion. Nokia did not make it (and they are the 800 pounds gorilla in mobile!), nobody else can. It is just impossible to go selling door-to-door to the enterprise. Even for a carrier. Distribution is what kills you, and the sales cost associated to it. Therefore, your closed-source solution ends up costing too much (I guess you heard this before ;-) Why open source?
  1. It is cheap. Actually zero if you use Funambol. Our Community Edition is free. We are not making money with it. It is meant for the Enterprise. We make money with the Carrier Edition, selling it to people that host our solution (to consumers, mostly, but also enterprises). So, if you are an enterprise, you can download it, plug it in your Exchange (or Domino, or your IMAP server) and you are good to go. If you need support, we will be happy to direct you to one of our community partners. We have them everywhere in the world.
  2. It supports the largest variety of devices. Even BlackBerry. The community is the key element. We are testing every phone in every country with every carrier. It is not just Funambol Inc. It is thousands of people. And developers, that port our stack to more and more phones (lastly, Android). Your IT Manager will have a hard time saying your phone is not supported.
Bottom line, I believe the mobile email enterprise will have room for only three players: RIM, Microsoft and open source. Nice battle ahead, bring it on ;-)

About Mapping Open Source into Your Business Model

I have been on vacation for a few days (awesome trip with an RV around the Monument Valley, highly recommended) and I already have people complaining I did not post anything for a few days ;-) Blogging for some is a drug, for others is a sacrifice. I am right in the middle.

One blog I read frequently is Commercial Open Source Software by Roberto Galoppini. It is a must read if you are into business models around open source. One of his last posts is about mapping open source into your business model. He uses Funambol as a case. He knows us reasonably well, if only for the great dinners we have when I happen to be in Rome (and he pays the bill, which is even better ;-)

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The power of open

Open brings more open. It is a positive cycle. Bring in Android and Symbian, make them open source and Apple will start feeling the pain: "we need to be more open!". Even from the closest company on earth...

Well, it happened today. Apple has decided to drop the NDA on the applications in the App Store. Mostly, because people that were about to write books on the iPhone SDK realized they could not do it... And it would have hurt Apple. Close is bad, Steve Jobs found out. Better open it up.

One more for open.