May 1, 2006
By Tara Seals
MOBILE E-MAIL BECAME A front-page story earlier this year when news that BlackBerry push e-mail service might be shut down due to a patent infringement lawsuit. But while the service rocketed into the general psyche over BlackBerrys troubles, uptake for e-mail-on-the-move remains low. With advances in usability and strides to marry corporate and personal use, that may be about to change.
According to a study from M:Metrics Inc., HPI Research and the University of Connecticuts Roper Center, U.S. mobile subscribers e-mail use as of December 2005 penetration was still very small, with business use at just 4.31 percent. Seventy-five percent of respondents cited a need for easier input in general, while 46 percent said they dont use any phone input features, including the address book, due to distaste for typing on the mobile keypad. This and other factors, such as security and the need for expensive additional devices to access e-mail on the road, initially have constrained adoption, giving dealers a consultative opportunity to educate companies on the options and benefits of mobile e-mail.
You Have Vemail!
Advances to overcome some of the gating factors are now on the horizon. Usability is perhaps the biggest factor.
The push e-mail technology popularized by Research in Motion Ltd.s aforementioned BlackBerry service sends e-mails as they arrive to a wireless device tailored for that purpose. Theres no need for the user to go and retrieve messages while on the road. Thats in contrast to accessing Web mail from a WAP browser on a mobile, an arduous process that strains ones patience as well as eyesight.
Voice Genesis Inc. hopes to take ease of use one step further with Vemail, a mobile client, downloadable over the air, which allows corporate users to retrieve e-mail from POP/IMAP business e-mail accounts, and Microsoft Exchange and Domino servers, for $4.99 per month, per user. It also can be deployed with push functionality. Users then can respond to e-mails with a voice message sent as a .wav file, MP3, QCP or AMR file within an e-mail. An 800 number is provided in case the recipients PC doesnt support attachments.
The service also supports address books, voice dialing as well as the conversion of HTML, attached Word documents or PDFs to text for viewing on the phone.
The vast majority of mobile users just read their e-mails and dont respond, says Mark Marriott, CEO at Voice Genesis. This allows them to respond as well as turn their handset into a mobile workstation.
Vemail can be paired with the VUUM Messaging Server (offered on a managed service basis to enterprises) to support all popular message formats, devices and modes. VUUM detects the device settings and configures messages accordingly.
Mobile e-mail also speaks to business peoples increased sense of maintaining a work/life balance. In an age of telecommuting, Wi-Fi and virtual offices, the line between the two has become blurry. In late 2005, Visto Corp., which provides a privatelabel push service to mobile operators including Sprint Nextel Corp. and Cingular Wireless, launched the worklife.freedom initiative to position mobile e-mail as having a positive effect on work/life balance issues, and tested the concept in an independent study carried out by Ronin Corp., an international research consultancy (see highlights below).
The study … shows that there is a real and latent demand for mobile e-mail from workers at most levels within organizations and within companies of all sizes, says Jane Vincent, visiting research fellow at Surrey Universitys Digital World Research Centre, who analyzed the findings. In addition, other studies have strongly suggested that mobiles, whether supplied by an employer or purchased individually, are valued by their keepers at an emotional as well as at a conscious or rational level. People like their mobiles, not just for what they do but also for what they represent be that freedom from their desk, security or simply status.
Indeed, device consolidation is a key to adoption. Having to carry a second device for mobile e-mail was seen as a turnoff for 40 percent of the respondents in the Ronin survey, with only 22 percent prepared to accept a dedicated e-mail device in addition to their mobile phones. The ability to receive e-mail on the same device further adds to its value and desirability, says Vincent.
Attitudes About Mobile E-Mail
Eight of 10 people polled said they would be interested/very interested in the immediate delivery of work e-mails to their mobile phone.
On a scale of one to 10, where 10 is very important, 70 percent of respondents gave a rating of seven or higher to the ability to access their personal e-mail on the same mobile device they use for work mail.
Some 34 percent of respondents, the highest grouping across any answer in the study, gave a top score of 10 to the importance of ease-of-use and the automatic synchronization of phone and office PC. Overall, 83 percent of respondents considered this important.
Asked to rate mobile e-mail on a one-to-10 scale from tied down to set free, some 55 percent chose a freedom rating of seven or higher, seeing mobile e-mail as a liberating technology. In contrast, less than 20 percent opted for a rating of four or below.
Having to carry a second device for mobile e-mail was seen as a turnoff for 40 percent of the respondents. Only 22 percent were prepared to accept a dedicated e-mail device in addition to their mobile phone.
Source: Ronin Corp.
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