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Pushing Mail In Japan

It seems the race is on for push email services. Research In Motion is in Japan trying to run their services through NTT Docomo. We have used NTT Docomo for 5 years and put up with constant disconnects and horrible customer service. It may not be wise to go back to that quality of service (QoS) level. In the meantime, we see various other options for push email available in Japan. Some of the options are, Microsoft’s Activesync for the Microsoft Exchange server pushes everyone to Exchange 2003, the Visto solution seems to work, RIM’s Blackberry is definitely the leader, and of course Intellisync, a company that has been around for years who Nokia purchased to synchronize multiple devices. It seems since there are so many options it seems there is become more of an interest in the devices.

For the US, the all around device of choice is probably the Palm Treo. It is unfortunate, but it seems by selling the Palm OS off and marketing a Windows mobile device that Palm threw in their towel to become just one of many other hardware providers. In Japan, we don’t have Palm as an option. Willcom has been very successful with Window Mobile devices from Sharp (the Sharp Zero 3, and Zero3 ES). The Sharp products, although a bit bulky, have actually been quite popular as a combination of great hardware with a very reasonably priced service that is very reliable.

A popular product right now in Japan is the Nokia e61.  It is a copy of the Blackberry but running the Symbian OS. AINEO has started calling them eBerrys internally. Nokia has been smart to design the devices to work well with both the Blackberry server and other push email server applications as well. It is nice as it is both fully Japanese and fully English. There is interesting commentary on the US version (evidently called the e62) on at this site.

So far, the AINEO opinion on the current devices today is

1) The Blackberry is great for executives who need access to their email but are not really planning to install additional applications.  Hands down the best in the market.  Not good for someone wanting to install various applications.

2) The Sharp models for Willcom are great for Japanese only and will run Activesync just as any other Windows Mobile device. The Willcom service is a bit weak out in the country-side, where you normally aren’t at anyway.

3) Generally, Windows Mobile is great for people who want to install applications.  You do get the glorious MS freezes with these devices similar to your PC.

4) The Nokia’s e61 is good device but not really supported by any of the carriers (AU, Softbank, Docomo or Willcom).  Its input is well designed, it currently supports Japanese (Blackberry users have at least until June 2007 for that) and can be run carrier independent. That means on either Docomo or Softbank’s Networks can be used to deliver the service. Watch out for those connection charges.  (We got a 150,000 bill from Softbank during our tests for just a few weeks of use).

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As the IT department of many great organizations, AINEO is testing various solutions and hopes to have something concrete in January for our clients to help roll-out to sales people, consultants, and other staff who work regularly outside of the office.

With so many push email service and software provider options, it will be interesting to see which will be left standing in 2008.

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