March 23, 2006
 

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Battle for Mobile e-mail Heats up as Blackberry's RIM and NTP Head for Court
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The patent legal case between Research In Motion (RIM), makers of BlackBerry, and NTP heads for a scheduled court decision on Friday, February 24, 2006, concluding a patent infringement case that has been raging for five years. NTP is seeking a court injunction to have the BlackBerry wireless e-mail service shutdown in the USA. Whatever the outcome, the uncertainty surrounding the service in the USA comes at a time when other major players have declared their intention to deliver mobile e-mail services through new partnerships, says Sarah Burnett, Senior Research Analyst with Butler Group, Europe's leading independent IT and research advisory organisation.

Only last week, Vodafone and Microsoft announced the launch of a new push corporate e-mail service to rival BlackBerry. The service will allow mobile phone users to receive e-mails from their corporate Microsoft Outlook software and edit Excel and Word attachments. Private mobile e-mail users are also going to be targeted, according to an announcement from Bouygues Telecom last week. Bouygues, a leading mobile operator in France, intends to deliver a specifically designed version of MSN Hotmail, for mobile phones. This is to allow MSN Hotmail mobile services to provide customers additional communication options to enable people to talk with friends and family through an array of mobile Internet services, helping to bridge the PC and mobile worlds.

RIM still remains the leader in the mobile e-mail arena, a market which according to independent market analyst Datamonitor, is set to explode. In a recent report, Datamonitor puts the number of corporate e-mail inboxes worldwide at about 650 million today. Based on the assumption that at least 35-40% of these inboxes could potentially be mobilized, Datamonitor estimates the global addressable market for enterprise mobile e-mail at around 260 million subscriptions. Mobile operators are in a position to make the most of the upsurge in growth anticipated for mobile email.

Few believe the court injunction will come to be as RIM is likely to settle before the court reaches such a decision. RIM has also announced a workaround that would allow new BlackBerry users to receive mobile e-mail, should the injunction be granted. The workaround could also be deployed to existing users, but RIM is fighting to ensure existing users would be exempt from the threatened shutdown.

With the number of mobile phones having Internet connectivity expected to exceed that of PCs, one thing is certain; service providers are looking to strengthen their presence in all aspects of the mobile telecommunications business to take advantage of the anticipated growth.

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