Orange has started to roll out a push e-mail service that it hopes will appeal to small businesses, and extend the reach of the technology across the workforce in larger businesses, the operator announced on Thursday.
Subscribers can choose from eight handsets and at the low end will pay around 10 euros (US$12.50) per month for unlimited e-mail. Higher prices will come with higher-end phones that allow users to download attachments.
Orange customized technology from the French mobile e-mail developer Altexia for the service.
Businesses must install server software behind their firewalls to enable the service, which pushes e-mail, calendar and contact information out to mobile phones. It is compatible with Lotus Notes and Microsoft Exchange.
Customers pay a monthly fee per user, but no licensing fee for the server software, and Orange is offering installation help free of charge.
Initially, certain phones from Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications, Nokia and the Orange SPV range will come loaded with the software required for the service. Existing users of some other phones will in the future be able to download the software, and Orange is working with a Chinese phone maker, Amoi Electronics Company, to develop other low-cost phones that will ship with the software.
Orange hopes the offering will open up mobile e-mail to a wider audience. “We’re really targeted on a strategy of making mobile e-mail available for all,” said Cynthia Gordon, vice president of marketing for Orange Business Services.
In addition to targeting users beyond the executive corridor, Orange hopes the offering will appeal to small businesses. “We’re making e-mail democratic and available to lots more companies,” she said. Orange research revealed that just 10 percent of small businesses use a form of mobile e-mail, she said.
Operators and vendors are increasingly trying to broaden the market for push e-mail. “It’s indicative of the direction of the market,” said Rob Bamforth, an analyst with Quocirca. The handset selection and the low, flat monthly fee on the Orange offering will help encourage more users, he said.
Other operators including Vodafone Group have already introduced push e-mail services. Like the offering from Orange, Vodafone’s service, based on technology from Visto, aims to enable mobile e-mail across many devices. The services compete with push e-mail offerings from Research In Motion and its popular BlackBerry devices as well as Microsoft with its Windows Mobile 5.0.
Orange Mail has already launched in Romania and will launch in France in October. It will become available in Slovakia and Belgium later in this year and in the United Kingdom, Poland, Spain, Switzerland and the Netherlands early next year.
-Nancy Gohring, IDG News Service (Dublin Bureau)
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