Mobile email is now an established business tool. It is hard to find an organisation of any size that hasn't introduced it into at least some part of the business, and momentum has started to gather among smaller companies also. If you're not using it yourself, you'll probably know someone who is. Yet in the latest Reg …
Blackberry is totally a one trick pony. And, worse still, it’s strictly for city workers, although i'm not sure i spelt that last word right.
mobile email rules
Mobile email is the greatest thing since mobile phones were invented. My productivity has gone through the roof. I can respond to my days emails from the comfort of my train and then have a clear run at the day when I get into the office. It’s truly marvellous. As a sysadmin, it also means I can deal with problems before most people have even noticed them – better still, I can do it from the pub.
As an administrator of a Blackberry Enterprise Server all I can say is we have to subsidise the lifestyles of its users - people getting yet another freebie at the expense of their employers. I don't think there is a single business case for Blackberry's, at least I've never seen one. Users just want anything for free - I just wish crap like this would just go away.
One of the biggest problems I see is locking down the mobile devices. I have GPO's on desktops and servers - but what stops end-users break (or worse reconfiguring and leaving gaping security holes) in client devices.
I have no interest in Blackberry's on the basis that they were designed just for email. Other functions are secondary. And of course the huge cost in deployment is going to put off many people.
Exchange on the other hand is going to take off and probably kill the Blackberry. Why pay for Exchange plus the BB when Exchange can do it?
The whole mobile concept needs to be brought into enterrpise lines pronto - otherwise I'll be staying with Outlook Web Access and IMAP4.
Blackberry Vs. The rest
Whilst Blackberry have had a few years head start to the competition, they still lack the biggest feature that most businesses require, editing of attachments.
As Microsoft have now released push technology for exchange 2003, I can see many companies swapping over to Windows mobile 5 based units for reduced costs and more functionality... unless Blackberry update their software.
Blackberry bad/ mobilemail good
I’m utterly convinced about mobile email. But not certain devices.
I work in IT operations and have been forced down the Blackberry route by my organisation – much to my dismay. I’m now fully expected to respond to an email as quickly as I would a ringing phone. It’s a disgrace. Doesn’t matter what time it is either – so I get people mailing me at 23:00, and if they don’t get an answer, I get another one at 23:05, 23:10, 23:15, etc, etc.
The whole point of email is that it’s asynchronous and it simply doesn’t work as a synchronous device – plus, that’s what the phone’s for anyway. It used to be the case that email was something that happened in the background. Now it’s more bothersome than a flurry of a voice calls. Blackberry is raising expectations – which neither the person or the technology is ready for - and I for one am deeply unhappy about it.
Mobile email is a different matter. I've been using that for years anyway, it's just the Blackberry that's confusing things. No Blackberry means no expectation. But mobile email is the same as email wherever you get it. Strange really - it's the device that's the driving force for bad practice.
crapberry more like
The blackberry touted as an email phone only supports email from exchange!
What if I run hula (which I'm currently testing out) or cyrus imap (as we currently run) or uwimap (if we're feeling brave).
Blackberry is a crap lockin mechanism, did they have a knees up with Sir Bill and seal a deal in blood or something. Push email won't really take off until the other techologies are supported, especially as novell netmail which is open sourced and being re-developed as hula is going to take off in a big way mainly as a result of caldav and the standards compliant ldap eDirectory *cough* AD *cough*
WM5 & SP2
With Microsoft introducing the Push service in Exchange SP2 (as a FREE upgrade), and a built in utility in Mobile 5.0 to take advantage of this, along with the fact that most corporate servers are running exchange in the first place, can you tell me that you're going to fork out an extra couple grand in costs for a) the Enterprise server, b) retraining, and c) support, for the Blackberry Solution?
Add to that the fact that the expandability and robustness of the WM platform (in comparison to the Blackberry OS) and I honestly can't see the Blackberry being a viable corporate utility any more.
On the other hand though:
For the independent businessperson who doesn't have a corporate infrastructure behind them, I would definitely go for Blackberry. The Visto solutions (Vodafone's Business Email being a prime example) are shaky as the proverbial expletive. From a consumer point of view, if you're a small business/sole trader who needs a mobile email solution, Blackberry is as simple as it gets. It does exactly what it says on the tin, as it were. With the Visto solutions, there are so many administrative bodges on the network side that can be made, along with the wrong configuration file being sent to the handset, having to set up an Internet (vs. WAP) connection on the phone, provisioning the account for the 5 or 6 different SOCs that are needed...etc, etc, etc.
A Blackberry you pull out of the box, sign up on the website and (handset hardware allowing) you're away.
In summary: For a corporate infrastructure that has Exchange in place, SP2 and WM5 are by far the most superior solutions, but if it's a small business situation with little or no IT infrastructure, Blackberry offers the easiest (if not necessarily the best) setup for mobile email.
Work vs. Play
Permanent solution to receiving all those emails in the middle of the night: Turn the damned thing off. When you are at work, you are expected to respond to business communications... When you are at home (or anywhere else, outside of work), you should not have to act as though you are at work.
Else, employers should have to pay overtime for all those minutes spent responding to emails (with a hefty, 30-minute minimum charge).
It's just an enabler
Push e-mail is an enabling technology. If you work for an evil employer, they will use this to enable more evil. Big surprise.
Personally, I've found my Blackberry to be liberating. Routine e-mail checking only takes a glance (I've disabled tones) and I can respond to emergencies much quicker, often without firing up a laptop (using the free midpssh client).
In my opinion, the only people who really need mobile e-mail are the staffs who do not work at an office: the road warrior, the sales rep. And then, I don't know if the hand held type is the best solution. But that's not for me to decide.
Where I work, lots of project managers run around from meeting to meeting with their Blackberry like gizmos which vibrate so much that meetings have turned into earth quakes. They do not respond to the e-mails right away (Swiss people tend to be polite in meetings) but more often than not, they read them.
None of these people are hart surgeons waiting for a transplant availability message or any other information of vital importance and 99% of messages could easily wait a couple hours if not a couple days.
E-Mail is THE killer app of the internet. It is the most useful thing on my computer and allows us to stay informed. The down side is that with everything else, too much of a good thing just turns it bad.
Some of us get an e-mail a minute or more. Not spam, just people who send out information and think we ought to be informed.
But the Gizmos are mostly for status display anyway and not really for information delivery; it's for status. Getting a Blackbery like device shows that you are important. It's a cost effective way for a company to make employees (male ones at least) happy. It certainly costs less than paying business class
We are flooded with information all day long and most of us do not have the mental or technical or organizational tools to deal with the amount of e-mails, or SMS and phone calls. Making it too easy to communicate can create a lack of communication because people don't know (and have no way of finding out quickly) what is relevant and what is not. I started to filter all the e-mails where I am alone in the "To" field from the others. I have started asking people to use key words and to post to mailing lists. Unfortunately for me, my authority is limited and I still get lots of e-mails. Thank God for the "Off" button.
We found a great service on our travels, available as 2 two week free trial, it should outshine the blackberry - certainly in terms of TCO is does. It deals with security in multiple levels and from a standpoint that email need not be downloaded to the mobile device therefore no loss of important data. Supporting over 250 handsets and allowing the editing of attachments, means we get to do a whole load of work without requiring a laptop. Push and pull technology is supported, as is appointment setting across our organisation, thus we no longer run the risk of double bookings. Check it out for yourselves.
Email security on mobile devices is a difficult one. We now have a mobile workforce that’s topping 100 and, whilst we can keep the transmission and delivery pretty secure, it’s lost devices that are a problem. Mobile operators have for years promised to do something to lock these things down but nothing’s happening. Why? Because it’s damned near impossible unless you can come up with a way of the device knowing when it has been stolen or lost. Having the ability to fry the system, and obliterate all data, by text message would be a great bonus. But that rather assumes the device is switched on, and that someone doesn’t just rip the sim and all the data without switching it on.
As far as I can see, none of these systems is scalable because they're just not stable.
We had a team of construction engineers and surveyors working happily on XDA II handsets running custom survey software, and we successfully deployed a BlackBerry service to 4 dozen managers.
We wanted to expand the deployment to all our engineers and integrate with the BlackBerry service, but the new improved XDA IIs and IIi had been released. The new model wouldn't work with the BES and the old model wasn't available any more. BlackBerry support was "in the pipeline" for a year before our phone provider told us that they'd given up hope of ever seeing it and had withdrawn it from their catalogue.
If they can't maintain the features across versions, then a system is unscalable -- buy all you'll ever need now, and forever hold your peace.
Our fingers burned, it is unlikely we'll ever get the chance to deploy a system as efficient and useful as those plucky little PDAs we had for those short months....
Let's alienate our customers
I work with many upcoming mobiles, and I hate them all.
Mobile email is just another layer of complexity that the engineers and marketeers have stuck on to pad out their specs, despite the fact that it can be genuinely useful. If the user can manage to struggle through the setup process, they still have several factors to contend with that are likely to make them stop using it fairly quickly:
1. Entering text: unless you have a dedicated keyboard, this will quickly become a real pain (unless you're a teenager). After a while, you end up just replying 'OK', and waiting until you get back to your desktop to repsond properly.
2. Screen size: If you get a lot of emails, then just being able to view 3 of them at a time (Stand up, Nokia) becomes a real bore. Ditto trying to read them if there's only room for an SMSs amount of text.
3. Managing your emails: still one of the biggest bores. Again, if you get a lot of them, trying to delete most (but not all) requires an inordinate amount of scrolling and marking. Many email apps make it impossible to delete the headers if you haven't deleted them from the server.
4. Synchronising your emails: if you have a company server that manages all this, then it's not your problem. If you use POP3, then it's hard to keep track of which emails you've responded to. IMAP is supposed to do this, but I get the impression it's not perfect and causes its own problems.
Inevitably, I find that the dedicated ones work best. I have a BlackBerry 8700v, and although I use it just with POP3 email I can do detailed responses without problem. The keyboard and screen size helps in all the other useful apps (Calendar and Contacts) as well. One-handed operation is another aspect that you don't really appreciate until you use it. Mac support is lousy, but there are a few 3rd party helpers.
All the rest are compromised in one way or another. The Sony Ericssons have UIs so complicated that you can barely use them as phones (in the case of the M600i, it's virtually impossible). The Nokia E61 is nice enough, but using the joystick instead of a jog dial sucks, and the key layout is rubbish as with all Series 60 phones. Haven't tried the Moto Q, but all the Windows 'Smartphones' raise my hackles in their patronising Windows way - though the Contacts app is excellent in that it tries both numbers and letters in search mode. The Nokia Communicators are neither fish nor fowl. WiFi on any phone is almost useless – slow and buggy and incredibly difficult to set up (especially Nokia).
Final thoughts: a lot of comments on this are about whether mobile email is necessary. Well, for some people it is, and for others it's bragging rights. Trying to do much more than view attachments and reply using text is really not worth the hassle. Very few complex attachments will display properly, ditto web pages. If you can accept the limitations of small screen, slow data transfer, and lack of processing, then you won't be too disappointed. For those who want and need it, I'm afraid that BlackBerry would be my suggestion - the full keyboard ones, not the SureType ones: no matter how good the predictive text is, it always goes to buggery if you have a vaguely unusual name or word to enter - and for business, that's a lot of the time.
Vodafone Business Email
Love the fact that we can receive our push email from an Exchange Server on a Nokia E61. Unfortunately the Vodafone version of the handset doesn't beep or vibrate when new mail arrives, kind of defeats the purpose of instant email if you don't know you have it until you checked your phone.
Mobile email? Just use iBurst mobile broadband
Isn't it amazing that 6 years from the big hype show organised by our friendly GSM operators for the UMTS license bid (those who watched the 2000 UMTS auction will recall how exciting it was but glad they weren't footing the bill - or so we thought), we are still debating about how impractical it is to try to make use of a small device - the mobile phone - for visual large screen usage - like with a computer or TV.
The Blackberrys is great because it REPLACED the (US) PAGER, not the email on a computer. Moreover , the guys at BB built the server end AND the full wireless data network because 2G was just not a reality in those days and as usual mobile operators preferred to get voice traffic (you can listen to your emails right?) rather than the more efficient text or instant messaging traffic.
The future is quite simple: get some decent mobile broadband as it is available with iBurst operators and someday, if we believe everything Intel tells us, mobile Wimax. iBurst is now available in the UK (Northern Ireland), Scandinavia (starting in Norway) and a few other countries in Europe are launching it end of 2006 and early 2007. It has been running and is now out of negative cashflow in Australia and South Africa for over 2 years. 3 other operators also launched this summer in Malaysia, Lebanon and Canada.
Then all the human users reading this will just turn on their laptop and get their emails, work on those urgent ones - including attachements or Intranet stuff - and have another beer in the pub rather than do 45 minutes of traffic jams to get to the office and send it on time.
Anything urgent can come with SMS or SMSMail - the simple use of Outlook plug-in (or Notes for those IBM purist) email client with the OutlookSMS plug-in. And as another reader correctly mentions, someone might actually call you to see if you're awake!
Let's get back to reality and leave to the R&D lab guys the all in 5 small, yet big, phone that works as a radio, MP3, computer, alarm clock - all of which it does manage to do if you read the manual or have spare batteries - and just continue to use iPods, radios, alarm clocks and many fashion accessories out there which also do the job a good deal better.
The words "stick to the netting" will also make a few ideas come back into place after more billion dollar right offs from the GSM operators as well as some not too happy killer mobile application companies.
I'd rather have e-mail than a camera
For a small business, the BlackBerry service available through mobile providers – without the need for a server – cannot be beaten for simplicity and cost.
The status symbol argument is nonsense and anyone who actually leaves their BlackBerry to vibrate for anything other than text messages or calls needs help.
It is just a way of keeping an eye on your correspondence without having to fire up the laptop every couple of hours. If there's anything urgent then you can deal with it and everything else you can delete and deal with the next time you are at your desk.
The BlackBerry does exactly what you want for business use and thankfully the devices have not gone down the route of trying to stuff gizmos such as MP3 players and cameras into what is supposed to be a communication device.
Now if they could just sort out the battery life…
Not just devices that need to be considered
Yes, you need a full alpha keyboard like a blackberry. The blackberry user interface works - not great but infinitely better than windows mobile.
However, for a small business using POP3, the problem needs looking at end to end.
a) you need an ISP that diverts suspected spam, not just labels it; very galling to pay for spam.
b) you need a mobile phone operator that can connect your POP3 account to the device - t-mobile couldn't do that for me.
c) you do need customer service from the phone operator, which in my experience rules out Orange.
d) windows mobile only synch's properly with exchange (EU please note), so you have to pay phone rates for POP3 emails, even if you have already received them on a desktop.
e) lightweight laptop with wi-fi may be a better solution for many, perhaps in conjunction with a U3 smart USB drive. GPRS card as an expensive alternative for when it is really necessary.
Goodlink on a Nokia E61 (or XDA) is the push email winner - hands down!
Hands down, the best push email solution is GoodLink.
You need to source a hosting provider such as fasthosts.co.uk or mailstreet.com that provide Good. The yearly investment (around US$180) is well worth it.
If your company has an internal exchange solution or like me you need a hosted exchange solution then you should consider Goodlink as your push email of choice.
Once you have an GoodLink enabled exchange account, get good from http://get.good.com
[it's also available for Palm, XDA and Smartphones and I was hooked when I was running Good on my XDA II]
Good has a very good exchange like interface and provides wireless sync for
ie EVERYTHING on your exchange server synced with the handheld in real time.
The push is effortless (and instant!) and optimised for wireless (compression, folder choice etc).
Each month I am well under my 6GB allowance from my wireless provider running Good 24 x 7.
I used Good on an XDA and waited patiently for it to be provided for the E61 and I have not been disappointed.
Note: I have absolutely no affiliation with Good, I'm merely a user via my exchange hosting provider fasthosts, but since I found out about GoodLink earlier this year on an XDA website and tested it, I haven't looked back.
Now GoodLink is available for the Nokia E61, it completes the device as one of the best smart phones for a global business traveller needing access to email, contacts, calendar entries as well as the web via 3G or WiFi.
From a Strategy Point of View
People have deployed BlackBerry for Wireless Email. In doing what it says it is very good, as it will deliver email wirelessly. However what else will it do? Not a great deal other than act as a phone, which in my experience, most users want a separate phone.
So what are the options?
Yes there are options such as:
Microsoft Exchange SP2
For the smaller business who doesn't have the larger security concerns around data etc and doesn't mind being tied to Microsoft only devices (although yes you can use Symbian and Palm with Data Viz's Roadsync solution) this will be fine. However again this will only be delivering your email and PIM information.
Solutions from Network Operators
Orange, O2, Vodafone and T-Mobile all offer their own email solutions, but again it is just email and you tie yourself to the Network as well.
Intellisync from Nokia
Having established firmly in the US market Nokia acquired Intellisync in Q1 2006. The platform however still remains.
The key element of Intellisync is that it is device independent (palm, symbian, pocket pc, windows mobile, smartphone and full xp for laptops etc) and also network independent.
In addition to this you remove the need to send your data to an external NOC which you have to send your data to, this solution brings everything behind your firewall to increase your security.
In addition the product is modular and allows you to purchase just the modules you need. For example if you want to supply just email now then buy the email module, if in 6 months you want to synchronise files then add on the file sync module (the same is true for remotely managing devices and for synching with application data).
There are also some providers that offer a hosted service for this so you can have full push email without having to buy a BES or upgrade your backend. I've put some links below which you might find useful, but this is certainly where I would look from a strategic view point.
One-device-fits-all with a hundred different flavours...
Converged communications is where we're heading. We will want everything on a single device, but with a choice over colour, size, screen resolution, brand etc.
Mobile phones have converged with cameras and SMS has become the de-facto instant messaging medium on the move. So why are so surprised that email is now merging into the same device? People want their communications to converge into a single device, they don't want to have to check 2 or 3 different devices for different conversations.
The carriers may be peddling mobile TV as the next big thing, but watch for instant messaging replacing SMS for the improved two-way communications and reduced cost per message.
Mobile email on my JASJAR PDA is great and I couldn't be without mine, but I also have TomTom loaded and I regularly use mine for surfing the Net (great for checking train timetables). I've never been a fan of Blackberry, it's just too basic.
I even have 1000s of people from my company's global address list on my PDA now (sorry, Exchange only!). Check out:
The Convergence Myth
Convergence has been the Holy Grail for all device manufacturers for years, yet its appeal appears to be rather limited (except for very basic functions like telling the time). For awesome roadwarriors then having GPS/WiFi/DVB/MP3 etc. may not doubt be handy, but it seems that most of prefer to have things that do one or two things well rather than wade through the crap UIs and barmy key placements that most devices tend to have.
Take the digital watch. Not long ago everyone had one. More and more features were bunged on, simply because it was possible in engineering terms, ending up in watches with micro-keyboards and every feature under the sun... And look what good that did them - people decided that they actually preferred just being able to glance at something on their wrist that quickly communicated the time.
Ditto MP3 players - they all added voice recording and radis, thinking that this would crush the iPod. But, irritatingly, most people just want their iPods to play their music. My favourite is the iPod Shuffle, precisely because it has no screen. Using the large, simple controls, I can operate it through a ski jacket, even with ski gloves on.
Some convergence is obviously an advantage - yet many people prefer to carry a BlackBerry for their email, an old Nokia 6310 for voice calls (look how much those are going for on eBay!), and even a pager for emergencies. There are disadvantages to having all your eggs in one basket - if the battery dies, you're screwed.
As a Mobile Operator selling mobile email solutions I get a number of different customer views. They are asking for assistance in several areas.
- help preparing business cases for mobile email roll outs.
- guidelines for staff to effectively use mobile email.
- assistance in deciding what platform to settle on.
- advice on what else they can do with their mobile email deployment.
Increasingly the customers I am talking to are after the latter. Through their mobile email deployment they have a secure connection back to their company that they wish to further leverage. The classic usages, service and sales managment, are often first on the list, with a number of other applications ranging from content management to remote server administration also being discussed.
So long as the end use is well defined and a managed roll out is performed, companies are reaping greater and greater rewards from mobile technologies. Gaining savings and benefits beyond the ability to manage their inboxes.
500% PLUS ROI
Quite a few years ago now I was a Senior Product Manager working for Energis and I came up with a very early mobile solution using a laptop with an Orange HSCSD card which gave you 28.8k just enough to run a Citrix desktop remotely - MWI - Mobile Workforce Integration. What got me about it then was that we worked out that the ROI would be about 500% plus, yet I still haven't seen the market really take it up. I know the return is there so I guess it's just the education of companies/users that still needs to be done. Certainly a Citrix desktop over 3G would be very useable and extreamly secure as no information would ever reside on the laptop. I demo'd the system at i-Citrix in Wembley on an IPAQ and it was very well received particually by Banks.
Exchange = Expensive
As a small business, we cannot afford to run an exchange server, and don't need much of the functionality, plus it is only just getting "push". When I wanted mobile email a few years ago I simply set my mail server software (ftgate) to forward messages (after filtering) to a spare (free) email account. Access by polling may not be ideal, but anyone who can't wait an extra 20 minutes or so for an email when out of the office needs to take a break. Email is a post office application, it is not instant like a phone call or a fax despite what many people may think. My solution costs very little, is managed very simply and just works.
Not that complicated, surely.
I don't think it has to be complicated to get a working solution, just try a few of them out. I think the problem with the do called 'free' solutions is they generally compromise on security, user experience or they don't have a workable support model and thus they end up costing more in the long run.
We ended up using Good Mobile Messaging push email on a mixture of devices and it works great for our needs. It is the only experience similar enough to Blackberry to keep our users happy but runs on the devices they want. We just got a trial key from www.good.com/trygood tried it out and like it. Works on Exchange and Notes and you can host it internally (as we do) or if you are a smaller shop get someone like fasthosts (as Andrew mentions) to host it for you.
Other people may prefer other solutions but that's why its good that the choice is out there.
The strategic approach
Mobile working means different things to different people and is generally based on their personal experience and sphere of knowledge. I know people that wouldn’t consider anything other than Citrix for mobile working and others that wouldn’t give up their laptop for anything. These options aren’t mutually exclusive and it is important to have the right technology delivering the right information at the right time.
I use a laptop in my job and through various wireless connections can access all my office systems. I also use an HP iPAQ loaded with Good Mobile Messaging (formerly GoodLink) to enable me to be productive when truly mobile and during times when laptop use isn’t appropriate. Admittedly I don’t using my iPAQ in the same way that I use my laptop and I don’t claim to deal with all my email with it. I can decide how to respond and acknowledge messages so that the expectations of both clients and colleagues are managed. This combination works well for me but won’t for all depending on their role and working style.
To provide comment for the debate I thought I’d take the headings in turn:
Push email comes of age:
There are options beyond the Microsoft and BlackBerry offerings with products such as Good Mobile Messaging (formerly GoodLink) providing a better user experience with more functionality, security and choice. The user is free to choose from a range of platforms, devices and mobile operators. This enables them to source the components from vendors they trust.
Scaling it up:
Mobile messaging is the tip of the mobility iceberg and is fast becoming commoditised. It is important that a strategic mobile technology platform can cater for the needs of the user beyond email. The Good Mobile Intranet product is fully integrated with the Good Mobile Messaging suite and enables the delivery of key business applications to handheld devices. This integrated approach reduces the demand placed on wireless data connections, device resources such as memory and CPU and provides the user with a small number of application they need to become familiar with.
Openness of technology:
By adopting products such as those from Good Technology the enterprise can embrace industry standards and benefit from the availability of skills, knowledge and experience. This openness allows the business to choose the technology and platforms that are right for them rather than the limited choice available from vendors such as BlackBerry.
Mobile technology forces the enterprise to extent the security perimeter and managing that can be challenging. The Good Mobile Defence product is fully integrated with the other Good products and completes the comprehensive suite providing a solution that offers end-to-end message security, device access control, encryption coupled with remote management and device wipe tools.
Quantifying the benefits for mobile working will differ from one individual/organisation to the next. Some will be happy to deal with business matters in their personal time if it gives them more of it. One example was a client evaluating the Good Mobile Messaging product whilst on holiday. He was able to secure a new client by responding to an urgent request for information. This new business paid for the solution many times over.
When considering mobile technologies or developing a mobile strategy it is important to:
consider what you want to achieve today AND tomorrow so that you can choose technologies that will grow and evolve with you.
take small, incremental, measurable steps so that you can review where successes are being made and use that knowledge and experience in subsequent phases.
pay close attention to the usability of the solution as any investment will be wasted if the users cannot use it.
Crash a Mobile
While I was interested to read of the possibility of being able to crash particular Nokia phones I was a bit dissappointed that it wasn't actually explained. If anyone knows the process of being able to crash a phone please let me know.
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