Vodafone is the middle of a whole series of enterprise-oriented announcements. The most interesting is probably an own-brand push mobile email service based on Visto’s software.
Vodafone Business Email effectively provides services very similar to those of Blackberry Connect – which Vodafone is going to be also selling. The price is identical: £28 a month for unlimited domestic email downloads, contacts and calendar delivered from a corporate server, plus another £41 for roaming and a usage tariff of £8.75 per megabyte outside the UK.
Vodafone also has an email-only version for the smaller user. This uses standard POP3 mail accounts to push ordinary ISP-based email to phones. The price is £10 to £15 per month.
As a third offering, Vodafone will also be selling the Microsoft Windows Mobile service using scheduled ActiveSync, designed for companies that use Microsoft Exchange 2003. This isn’t a push email service at the moment, but that capability is an imminent upgrade. Vodafone hasn’t yet announced the fixed tariff for this.
Vodafone is aiming to present itself as a one-stop-shop for mobile email. Mark Bond, Director of Enterprise Marketing for Vodafone UK, said: “We have developed a range of solutions that complement existing IT investments and strategic road maps to ensure companies of all sizes can adopt mobile email with minimal disruption”.
For smaller business the POP3 email-only offering is a clear sell. For larger businesses though it may be difficult to decided which server-based service to promote. They come with a different choice of handsets; Vodafone Business Email gets Microsoft and Symbian smartphones, Blackberry Connect supports the usual Blackberry clients plus the Nokia 6800 and Vodafone VPX (Vodafone’s version of the HTC smartphone also badged by O2, T-Mobile and others).
To some extent it will depend on the customer’s existing infrastructure. And certainly for the next few weeks, the Vodafone branded offering looks the better buy – the corporate server software is free till the end of May (Vodafone sells the Blackberry Enterprise server for £3,450).
That server should be comparable to Blackberry Enterprise Server, as it includes a new device management function which will certainly appeal to larger users. This can give an administrator a remote ‘view’ of the state of connected devices; a lost handset can be shut down, and software upgrades can be automatically deployed to mobile devices.
But the BlackBerry offer is certainly not being displaced. “The Blackberry service is for larger companies, and those established with Blackberry,” said a spokesperson who also pointed out that Vodafone UK is BlackBerry’s leading customer outside the USA.
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