OpenHand HF, an Icelandic ISV that develops mobile email technology, has launched a platform for its channel partners to offer a hosted service for SMBs.
While it competes for customer attention and corporate spend with the purveyors of push email such as Research In Motion, Good Technology and Intellisync (now part of Nokia), OpenHand’s architecture is significantly different in that it provides online access to email from mobile devices without a network operations center, and as such is independent of network operator.
We provide online access to Exchange, Lotus Notes and IMAP servers such as Mirapoint’s, said Tim Belfall, the London-based COO of the Rekyavik-based ISV, but that’s truly online, i.e. we’re not synching from one place to another.
The technology for the service is based on a proprietary protocol developed by the Icelandic parent company for long distance communications at low bandwidths, resulting in high latency, Belfall went on.
To overcome the limitations of the link, he said, OpenHand does a number of things to the data packets, such as accruing into larger packets so as to avoid retransmits and reduce the number of headers, as well as compression and encryption.
The data is then forwarded from an OpenHand gateway in the customer’s network directly (i.e. without going through a NOC) to the mobile device, on which an OpenHand client needs to be running.
Until now this functionality has been available only as OpenHand Enterprise, in which the gateway is managed by the end customer, but now the company has launched SoHosted, a platform that enables its reseller partners to offer hosted Exchange with a mobile front end.
The idea is for the service to be co-branded with both OpenHand’s and the reseller’s names, while the OpenHand gateway in this case is hosted by NTT Verio, the hosting arm of the Japanese carrier.
OpenHand’s route to market is the reseller channel, since there is no NOC required in the network operator. Indeed, the reseller can sell Enterprise regardless of which network the customer’s mobile user is on.
This suits the reseller because, when they sell our competitors’ products in association with a carrier, they often tend to get bumped off the most profitable accounts by the carrier when the time comes for renewal, Belfall said.
As for pricing, the exec said OpenHand started out charging standard software licenses on the gateway, i.e. a one-off fee up front plus an annual maintenance. That proved prohibitive for some customers, however, so from mid-2005 it moved to a per-user, per-month fee of 11 pounds (16 euros, $19). As for SoHosted, since it comes with the complete Exchange infrastructure, it costs 18 pounds (26 euros, $31) on the same basis.
OpenHand supports platforms in both mobile and fixed devices, since its technology can also be used for remote access to email from home computers or wired laptops. The list is: Windows XP, 2000 and 98; Symbian OS with Series 60, Series 80 and UIQ user interfaces, Pocket PC 2003; Microsoft Smartphone 2003, Windows Mobile 5.0 and Palm 3.5 and up.
We’re currently developing support for version 9.1 of the Symbian OS, which is effectively a completely different version of the operating system developed to add support for WiFi, new screen sizes and user interaction, said Belfall, adding that 9.1 is running in phones such as the M600 and W950 from Sony Ericsson, as well as the E61 and N91 from Nokia.
The privately held company counts among its largest customers for the Enterprise product the UK’s National Health Service and South African Airways. Apart from Iceland and the UK, it has offices in Germany and South Africa and is setting up in Taiwan, with plans for a Swedish presence too. The US market is a tough nut to crack, Belfall acknowledged, arguing that it will depend on the number of resellers we can sign up.