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 ;-)