Research In Motion made us want always-on e-mail by bringing its wireless BlackBerry to 12,000 large corporations. But BlackBerry requires a big back-end server using something like Microsoft Exchange or Lotus Notes. So what about those smaller enterprises that don't want the overhead?
Companies like Cingular, Motient and Earthlink are hopping aboard the BlackBerry concept, offering similar services to owners of Motorola, Novatel and Palm handhelds. Some utilize separate wireless inboxes; others use Web-based POP3 and IMAP accounts along with software that redirects desktop mail.
While they don't match BlackBerry's solution, some are offering complementary functionality. Motient's MobileModem add-on for Palm V requires you use a separate inbox for wireless e-mail, but you can send text messages to fax machines and receive pages. Motorola's Timeport P935 has paging capabilities when used with a wireless subscription. Through MyMail, a desktop add-on, Timeport also integrates with desktop e-mail.
David Marshak, principal consultant at Patricia Seybold Group in Boston, predicts the trend of complementary functionality will continue. So expect the service menu and number of providers to expand as packet data channels are added to U.S. networks over the next 12 months.
Erik P. Nelson, a freelance writer living in San Francisco, has written for Profit and M-Business magazines.