Standardisation, interoperability and growing competition from email servers and services are accelerating the commoditisation of wireless email, according to Gartner. Vendors are responding by pursuing differentiation in the areas of collaboration, applications and the cloud.
Gartner predicts that worldwide wireless email users will reach one billion by year end 2014. Worldwide business wireless email accounts were estimated at more than 80 million in early 2010, including large, midsize and small organisations, as well as individual professionals, corresponding to about 60 million active users.
“Productivity gains with wireless email are driving adoption beyond executives,” said Monica Basso, research vice president at Gartner. “In 2010, enterprise wireless email is still a priority for organisations, whose mobile workforces are up to 40% of the total employee base. Most midsize and large organisations in North America and Europe have deployed enterprise wireless email already, but on average, for less than 5% of the workforce.”
Wireless email makes an individual’s email account accessible and usable via mobile networks on mobile devices, within a local client application or through a web browser, through a software gateway connected to (or part of) the email server.
An enterprise wireless email deployment has a software gateway that is behind the corporate firewall, possibly connected through a network operations centre (NOC) to a mobile client. Most products support Microsoft Exchange Server. IT administration, security and remote device management are supported to a different extent. A consumer wireless email deployment has a software gateway that is deployed by carriers and service providers. The offline email client on the device can be native or downloaded separately. Alternatively, a mobile browser connects to internet email accounts.
As wireless email begins to integrate with social networking and collaboration, social networking is increasingly complementing email for interpersonal business communications. Gartner predicts that by 2014, social networking services will replace e-mail as the primary vehicle for interpersonal communications for 20% of business users.
“People increasingly want to use mobile devices for collaboration to share content, information, and experiences with their communities,” said Basso. “Social paradigms are converging with email, instant messaging, voice over internet protocol (VoIP) and presence, creating new collaboration styles.”
Cloud email and collaboration services by Microsoft, IBM, Google and other players already include mobile support, but are very early in adoption. However, Gartner predicts that adoption will grow significantly in the next three to five years. In 2009, only 3% of email accounts were in the cloud but by the end of 2012, that number will increase to 10%.
“Thanks to ease of access, the cloud will generate indirect competition in the wireless email software market and will transform it in the long term,” Basso said. “Cloud email offerings from software and service players, such as Google’s Gmail, will begin to be adopted, pulling wireless email implementations into the cloud as well. Research In Motion and other wireless email vendors will build partnerships with cloud providers to address their customers’ cloud strategies. Through 2012, wireless email products and services will be interchangeable, shipping in large volumes at reduced prices. Wireless email will be highly commoditised and on any device. This commoditisation will, in turn, drive standardisation and price reductions on service bundles from mobile carriers.”