Nokia to roll out software for Canadian mobile clients

Nokia is preparing to compete with Research In Motion on its home turf with a set of wireless devices and messaging tools that offer mobile connectivity to corporate enterprises.

The company is already conducting Canadian customer trials with its Business Center, server software that allows users to send and receive e-mail with their handsets. The product will be generally available within about a month, to be followed by the Canadian release of several Nokia smart phones. These include the 8300, the e70 and e61, which should all be available here by the second quarter of next year.

By the time it offers the products to Canadian enterprises, Nokia will likely have completed its US$430-million acquisition of Intellisync, a San Jose, Calif.-based developer of wireless e-mail technology. According to Hernan Lardiez, Nokia Canada’s Enterprise Solutions group’s sales manager, said the two firms share a complementary philosophy of developing products that allow a information to be pushed to any corporate IP device. That means moving beyond pure e-mail and working within different lines of business, he said.

“The firms that tend to do it started in areas like purchasing, but now it’s moving towards IT departments,” Lardiez said. “The issue is not just to push information to that device but the ability to manage that device, and to make sure it’s secure if it can access the network.”

Nokia paved the way for providing secure access to mobile devices in 1997, Lardiez said, when it purchased a manufacturer of asynchronous transfer mode switches called Ipsilon Networks. Ipsilon’s products later became embedded in some of Nokia’s first enterprise products.

Ellen Daley, a Forrester Research analyst who specializes in mobile enterprise applications, said the Intellisync purchase will only enhance Nokia’s ability to secure and manage wireless data. 

“Intellisync has password authentication and remote location capabilities if a device is lost . . . Nokia gets that device capability inherently. That’s a big checkmark for them,” she said.

Nokia is aggressively pursuing enterprise customers as Research In Motion faces the biggest legal challenge in its corporate history. The company is still waiting for a final ruling on whether its BlackBerry device infringes on the patents of a firm called NTP. If RIM loses, NTP could win an injunction that would prohibit the sale of BlackBerries in the United States. 

“If you look at mobile applications and break it into wireless e-mail, it’s definitely dominated by RIM,” Daley said. “There is a bit of a cloud hanging over them now, but that’s probably just a blip.”

Lardiez noted that Business Center was designed to work with the BlackBerry, as well as a number of other handsets. “We partner with everyone,” he said.

Because the Business Center uses a transport layer to link mobile devices to the network, Lardiez said Nokia can offer a pricing package that could get some customers up and running for about $2,200. “There’s no infrastructure inside the carrier. We’re not running a (network operations centre),” he said. “It’s just pure IP connectivity.”

Nokia has said Business Center will initially support integration with Microsoft Exchange Server 2003, to be followed by Lotus Notes and Domino.

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