Vodafone Group Plc has launched its apps strategy for enterprise mobility services beyond email and personal information management, PIM.
The Application Portfolio comprises three levels of product: Vodafone Certified Applications, Vodafone Preferred Applications, and Vodafone Applications.
With Vodafone Certified Applications, the operator assures that they can and will run on its cellular network but has no further involvement with the software for which the user will be billed by the original ISV, whereas with Vodafone Preferred Applications, it is still the company that created the software that does the billing but Vodafone adds a professional services wrap around the product, such as job-scheduling software from Cognito. Vodafone Applications is where the operator has taken the software on board, brands and charges for it, as well as providing the PS wrap.
John Lillistone, head of enterprise data services, said the Newbury, UK-based mobile operator plans to have mobile apps in five areas. First, Enhanced Productivity, where he cited as an example an app that allows users to print from a BlackBerry device to a printer on their corporate LAN, carry out spell checks, and forward attachments from a shared folder on the network via the BlackBerry service. Second, IT Tools, apps that let people in the IT department access servers remotely, change configurations and uptake work schedules, and so on, he said. At the moment the app available in this category is Remedy. Third, Sales Force Automation, where Vodafone is offering Salesforce.com support. Fourth, Field Service Automation, where it provides a variety of workflow and scheduling packages; and fifth, Enterprise Asset Management, which can include both physical goods and human resource assets such as warehouse employees, nurses walking round a hospital, or social workers visiting people with potentially dangerous mental problems.
The portfolio was unveiled in London at the same time Vodafone announced its expanded portfolio of email services. Where previously it has offered BlackBerry push email on BlackBerry devices, it has now added four other email modalities. The first of these is BlackBerry Connect whereby the same service is available on a range of handsets from manufacturers other than Research In Motion Ltd. Another is Windows Mobile email services, which are currently in scheduled sync rather than push mode, though Microsoft has announced plans to incorporate push functionality into Exchange.
Most significantly, it launched Vodafone Business Email, VBE, services, based on the deal with push email developer Visto earlier this year. These come in two flavors: Enterprise, in which a company hosts the VBE server behind its corporate firewall, and Personal, in which Vodafone hosts the server and pulls data from Webmail accounts, which is clearly more an SME offering.
When Vodafone cut the deal with Visto there was much talk of it not only competing with, but also perhaps ultimately phasing out its own BlackBerry offering. That is clearly not the case, not least because many of the 4 million BlackBerry users are diehards who wouldn’t want to change. Beyond that, the three-tier Application Portfolio structure actually favors keeping RIM on board.
A Vodafone spokesperson said many of the Certified Applications come from ISVs who are new to Vodafone and/or new to Europe. A lot of the 600-plus ISVs developing for BlackBerry fall into this category, though he said many of their apps will also work on Windows Mobile and Symbian, so they may over time make their way up the stack through Preferred to Vodafone Application status. In such a scenario, RIM could actually be introducing the ISVs to Vodafone for non-BlackBerry developments.