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    Smartner keeps its targets realistic


    Mobile email not necessarily good for all devices

    Wireless email vendor Smartner says it has added four operator customers in the past month, within Europe, bringing to 15 the total number of operators who are customers.

    Ari Backholm, executive vice-president products and marketing at the company said that the company now had a clear number two position in Europe, just behind Blackberry, at 50,000 users. The company has also added three more European offices in Munich, madrdid and to support coming growth, he added.

    But he was honest about the overall size of the market. “If we are at 50,000 and a market leader then the market doesn’t exist,” he said, placing those numbers into context in terms of the overall mobile market.

    In many cases, operators are supporting both Blackberry, as a Blackberry and Smartner, Backholm said. The Blackberries are being sold under their own brand, but the operators are using Smartner to power the own-label XDA type devices also on offer. As Smartner is brand-invisible at the UI this can suit operators and handset manufacturer.

    This is the approach Vodafone Italy, recent win Telefonica Moviles and long-standing customer O2 have taken. One operator that doesn’t support Blackberry is Germany’s E-Plus, but it is the only operator in its market that doesn’t, so was keen to have a competitive solution, Backholm said.

    Backholm said that there had been a shift within operators away from supporting email on every client, to providing a really good service on just a few terminals. This would then increase as more and more phones at lower levels of the market begin to be Windows Mobile and Symbian/ Series 60 based. Smartner also has agreement with SonyEricsson to support the client on its P900 feature phone, and is looking for more following a March agreement to support the Symbian OS.

    If the mass market is to be cracked, then having the kind of push email and active sync functions on Java phones will probably be crucial. Backholm said Smartner is experimenting with Java phones but so far had found that users would lose the always functionality, because the phones can’t support the client running in the background as it executes other applications. It could work if the client was embedded in the phone, pre-sale, but for the OTA download, which is really where mobile email vendors see themselves, that full functionality would not be possible, he admitted.

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