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    Taking mobile email to the mass market


    Brian Bogosian first made his name known to the readers of Mobile Europe with some refreshingly direct comments on the state of the mobile enterprise email market.  With a straightforward style and an ambitious plan to expand his mobile email platform into the European market, readers are likely to hear a lot more from him in the future. Mobile Europe secured an interview with Bogosian as he outlined his plans to take on Blackberry in the mobile email market.

    Visto: A company in context
    Visto markets the mobile email platform Visto Mobile, a patented solution that enables wireless operators to mobilise email and personal information for their subscribers.  The platform comprises personal and enterprise editions to give everyone from individuals to large enterprise users access to their email, contacts and calendar on all popular mobile devices.  At the back end, the platform supports Microsoft Outlook / Exchange as well as Lotus Notes / Domino, IMAP and POP3 access.  The client works on all the leading platforms, including Symbian OS, Windows Mobile (Smartphone and Pocket PC), Palm OS, and J2ME (Java).

    Founded in 1996, and backed by a group of private equity investors, Visto has raised $65 million of funding in the past 12 months, the company can count two of the USA’s largest wireless carriers as clients — AT&T Wireless and Nextel — as well as a range of others worldwide.

    Visto has used its cash-rich position to act as a consolidating force in the mobile email market.  In June 2003 it purchase ViAir, a Seattle-based company providing carrier-grade wireless email solutions, and followed that with the September 2003 addition of Jarna.

    The company’s purchase of Psion Software in February 2004 (and its Symbian-based Transcend Mail push email solution) strengthened its position in the European market and integrated Psion’s Symbian expertise.
    Mobile Europe: Brian, can you tell us a bit about your company background and your approach to the market?

    Brian Bogosian: Visto is the leading company in the mobile messaging space.  Built around nine granted patents we have industry leading products delivering corporate data and personal information, such as contact and calendar entries, to wireless devices. These patents are in the area of remote access, synchronisation, and security — all relevant to accessing centralised information from a mobile device. Visto’s patents are a validation of our invention of this technology.

    We were founded in 1996 and are very well funded, having raised $65 million in the current round of financing, more than any other wireless company in the world. Through innovation in product development and in the delivery of those products to the operator community we now have 200,000 paid subscribers through ten operators worldwide, making us the clear number two in the market. In the next few years this market will explode; we confidently expect to have ten million users within the next three years.

    Mobile Europe: That’s an ambitious target. How will you deliver those sort of numbers to a market that until now, although convinced of the benefits of mobile email, has yet to find a truly workable solution?

    BB: The time has come to address the volume marketplace. To date Blackberry has done a good job of raising the profile of mobile email. There is a good understanding, amongst the operator and enterprise communities, of the benefits that mobile email can bring. Yet, their vision has been limited to senior executives in finance and legal entities. Visto is extending mobile email to the masses, providing secure, reliable, and easy to use solutions that mobile operators can take to all levels of mobile professional.

    We firmly believe that mobile operators are the best channel to deliver the benefits of mobility to business users — whether that is an individual user accessing his corporate email, contact, or calendar information from a mobile device, or an enterprise-wide solution delivered from within the IT department.

    Mobile Europe: There has been talk of email being the breakthrough mobile data application for operators for some time. Why do you think that we have now gone beyond just talk?

    BB: Wireless operators have clearly seen the opportunity for increased ARPU and reduced churn through existing email solutions. Most of the mobile operator community is talking about the growth of mobile data revenues and their companies have to focus on that part of the business. Wireless networks are becoming faster, more flexible, and more reliable. At the same time an increasing number and variety of smart devices are being introduced to the market. These are all enabling factors in the growth of mobile data applications.

    These smart devices need a killer application. In the business world that application is email. Mobile email is the most sought after of applications across the wireless operators that we are working with. Their target is to offer true IP push email across all market segments, from consumer to large corporate, on all popular devices, from Microsoft and Palm platforms, to Symbian and J2ME.

    Mobile Europe: So you see yourselves now as a company in a position to offer the same level of support in Europe as you currently provide for the likes of Nextel, Rogers and AT&T Wireless?

    BB: Visto is absolutely committed to the European market. One third of our people are based in Europe, many in our London headquarters, as well as a significant number in other European centres. Evidence of this commitment is our recent acquisition of Psion Software which in addition to strengthening our sales and support teams in Europe has added an important development centre, with particular skills in the development of Symbian and Microsoft clients.

    As our operator relationships develop in Europe we will continue to grow our presence here, as we will in the Asia Pacific region. Visto’s strategy is to work closely with operators to help develop and implement strategies for selling through products based on the Visto Mobile platform. This is a strategy that has been proven in North America with operators such as AT&T Wireless, Rogers and Nextel, through the provision of training, support, and direct field resources.

    Mobile Europe: To a large extent this market has been opened up by Blackberry. How does your offering differ from that provided by RIM?

    BB: Research in Motion has done a nice job of introducing an email appliance into the market. They have been instrumental in developing an understanding within the market of the benefits of mobilising email. What is now needed is to extend the opportunity for mobile email beyond the senior executives of a select group of industries into the wider community of mobile professionals, across all market segments and at all levels of employee.

    Visto is achieving this by providing a platform, for operators to take to their subscriber base, that is not based around a specialised device but supports the device that the user prefers to keep with them at all times and prefers to use for their mobile voice communications.

    RIM have indeed announced some licensing deals to put the  Blackberry client onto other devices but press releases are not products. Also, because these deals are with device manufacturers they are  putting themselves in competition  with the same people that they are signing agreements with.

    Visto’s solution is operator branded and platform and device agnostic. We provide support for all the major platforms; Microsoft Windows Mobile (Pocket PC and Smartphone), Palm OS, Symbian, J2ME, and Qualcomm’s BREW.
    Mobile Europe: Another way you are differentiated from your competitors is in the architecture you provide in Visto Mobile.

    BB: Yes, in Visto Mobile we offer a service delivery platform that has been specifically designed to meet the exacting requirements of the mobile operator. It integrates tightly with their authentication, billing, and provisioning systems. It enables the branding of services as well as the provision of differentiated service bundles.

    Whereas a company like Microsoft will provide a server based solution that talks directly to a relatively small number of individual devices a platform of the architecture of Visto Mobile puts control of the service, marketing, and delivery back into the hands of the operator. The Visto Mobile Access Platform that makes this possible can be hosted by Visto for an operator or located directly within that operator’s network. The platform has been tested to scale to millions of users and is integrated with the continuing support of Visto for installation, upgrades, OSS, billing and branding.

    Mobile Europe: You clearly position yourselves as number 2 in this market, what makes you believe that you are best positioned to lead the volume adoption of mobile email?

    BB: Visto has raised $65 million in private financing in the last 12 months, making it the best funded private wireless company in the world. We have 200,000 paid subscribers through ten operators across all major World regions, which gives Visto the second largest subscriber base in this industry. We have a complete product offering for all market segments from consumer and mobile professional to SoHo, SME and large corporate. We have nine patents that are all directly relevant to the Visto Mobile offering. We have the best engineering team in this business, enabling us to develop and support in-house all components of Visto Mobile. Finally, we have support for all of the major device platforms, including preferred partnerships with Microsoft and PalmSource which promotes Visto to the number one supplier of mobile email solutions that meet the needs of today’s mobile operators.

    NSN made a concerted effort last year to buy Nortel’s CDMA assets – to give it an increased CDMA presence and also boost its presence in American markets. It was outbid on that occasion by Ericsson, and has now gone back to the market to take over Motorola’s network assets.

    The companies say that NSN will pay $1.2 billion in cash for Motorola’s GSM, CDMA, WCDMA, WiMAX and LTE assets. It will not take the iDen technology as part of the deal. NSN says that the acquisition will give it relationships with 50 incumbent operators,  as well as “strengthening its relationship” with China Mobile, Clearwire, KDDI, Sprint, Verizon Wireless and Vodafone. The deal should close before the end of the year, a joint statement said.

    Nokia Siemens Networks expects that based on revenue, with the addition of the Motorola wireless network infrastructure business, it will become the #3 wireless infrastructure vendor in the United States, the #1 foreign wireless vendor in Japan (ie after NEC), and strengthen its current #2 position in the global infrastructure segment.

    Approximately 7,500 employees are expected to transfer to Nokia Siemens Networks from Motorola’s wireless network infrastructure business when the transaction closes, including large research and development sites in the United States, China and India.

    “As customers look to transition from CDMA networks to next generation technologies, the addition of the Motorola wireless network infrastructure business is targeted to ensure that we are well placed to meet those needs,” said Bosco Novak, head of Customer Operations at Nokia Siemens Networks. “Together, we will utilize the combined strength of Nokia Siemens Networks’ TD-LTE solutions and Motorola’s WiMAX and LTE businesses, to better meet customers’ evolving technology and business needs.”

    Motorola claims 41 WiMax contracts in 21 countries; has 30 active CMDA networks in 22 countries; and a “robust” GSM installed base, with more than 80 active networks in 66 countries. It also claims “excellent traction” with LTE early adopters.

    This last point is perhaps strategically most important to NSN. The vendor needs to claim market share as operators move to LTE and TD-LTE – and with CDMA (and some WiMax) operators showing signs of doing so – it makes sense for NSN to have a foothold in current CDMA operators, as well as the ability to lean on Motorola’s strong WiMax experience.

    The deal would bring to an end a long history for Motorola in wireless networking. Although the company was at the vanguard of GSM rollouts, as evidenced by those 80 networks, it largely failed to make a similar impression in 3G and HSPA. With the handset side of the business also struggling, a split in the company was often mooted as making most financial sense. Now that split has turned in to an asset sale and transfer of personnel.

    There was no further detail on how the product sets of the two companies would be resolved into one portfolio, but that will be a key point to watch as the deal progresses.

    When Nokia Networks merged with Siemens Networks, it took the company longer than it expected to create a coherent corporate culture. In that instance the merger wasn’t helped by some nasty allegations hanging over Siemens. This time the merger will see more geographical and market synergy, with Motorola strong in enterprise and government sectors, as well as the USA and Americas.

    With that in mind, the companies also announced they will explore a global relationship in the public safety arena. This relationship would combine Motorola’s public safety relationships with Nokia Siemens Networks’ commercial LTE solutions.