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E-mail package can smooth wrinkles


June 26, 2001

When I first struggled to send e-mail from my Palm some months ago, it became clear a huge service opportunity was there for the taking.

The vendor's online help files had nothing helpful, internet searches offered few clues to the non-technical minded, and my internet service provider had the answers to only bits of the problem.

Eventually I was able to connect with help from an expert, Rocom Wireless director Luigi Capell, and have been sending e-mails from the Palm for several months.

Now Rocom has developed its Me-Mail service, aimed at giving people access to e-mail, either personal or corporate, wherever they are.

"The concept of mobile e-mail is easy, but in reality, even if you take logical steps, it doesn't always work so well," Mr Capell said.

"People give up or they go back to the retailer, who often isn't able to tell them much."

Getting e-mail onto the device is in some ways the simple part. Software such as MultiMail for Palm is loaded on and access configured to the network, either through an add-on modem or a cellphone equipped with an infra-red or serial connection.

For about $1200 Rocom will give a Me-Mail customer an entry-level Palm, a phone, the software, an Xtra account and training on how to configure and use the system.

Where Me-Mail becomes complex is in accessing corporate networks. Mr Capell said Rocom had put together a middleware package to provide secure access through firewalls.

The middleware will connect any kind of handheld device to Microsoft Exchange or Lotus Domino servers. Interfaces with Novell systems are still being developed.

The Rocom middleware logs calls, checks the battery level on the handheld device and is aware of what operating system it has, so it can do remote upgrades.

"It also allows us to bolt onto other applications, such as synchronisation with dynamic documents or databases," said Mr Capell.

New Zealand businesspeople now spent almost as much time on e-mail as they did on face-to-face contact, he said.

"People are going into the office after work to do their e-mails, or getting there at 7 am to clear the backlog.

"We recognise there are micropauses in the course of a day - dead time while you're waiting away from your desk.

"If you had your e-mail there you could be reading and answering messages."

While a trickle of organisations have signed up to Me-Mail, Mr Capell expects the floodgates to open once the new telephone networks, Telecom's CDMA and Vodafone's GPRS, become generally available.

The networks allow "always on" access to the web and faster speeds.

At the present access speed of below 9.6 kilobits a second, downloading mail is an expensive proposition.

Telecom is testing its CDMA network and expects to launch soon.

Vodafone said it would charge $30 a month for 1MB data access on the GPRS system - enough to download about 100 standard e-mails or access 200 Wap pages.

The company's No 8 Wireless roadshow, illustrating the potential of GPRS, will be in Auckland on July 5.

By ADAM GIFFORD, Copyright © 2001, NZ Herald


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