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With end users demanding efficient and constantly accessible communication with their staff and business partners, push e-mail technology is quickly gaining popularity amongst Middle Eastern enterprises. Channel Middle East delves into a market on the rise.

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By  Dawinderpal Sahota Published  June 30, 2007

The term ‘push e-mail' has become a buzz phrase in the field of mobile communications and as with most leading technologies the concept is actually quite simple. Rather than ‘pulling' e-mails at intervals onto a mobile handset, the technology allows e-mails to be ‘pushed' - so each e-mail is individually and instantaneously delivered to the user's handset.

Middle Eastern enterprises are causing demand for push e-mail to surge, as they move towards a vision of a mobile workforce, although rarely do these enterprises develop a structured approach to realising this goal, claims Joe Devassey, head of enterprise solutions Middle and Near East at Nokia. "Do they have a mobility strategy? No," he asserted. "A lot is happening accidentally - it's not as if the IT managers in most companies in the Middle East actually have a plan, like they do for installing networks or firewalls. It's happening more randomly, but there's definitely a lot of interest there from governments, banks, the hospitality industry - across all the verticals really."

Mobility vendors even suggest that enterprises have been driving demand for push e-mail inadvertently, with staff taking the initiative to get themselves connected. Motorola Middle East's regional sales manager Harout Bedrossian reckons that staff in enterprises are going out and buying push e-mail handsets for business purposes, rather than waiting for their companies to comply with the trend of increased mobility and constant connectivity. "The funny thing is that we've also seen individuals within the enterprises who have shown demand and started adopting devices even though their own companies and management didn't show any interest in the device," he revealed. "They know about the brands and about the technology and when it enters the region, they don't wait for their companies, they just go out and buy the handsets," he said.

Vendors argue that, despite its relatively swift take-up in the region, push e-mail would soar in popularity even more so if channel partners and users were better-informed on the technology. In order for resellers to successfully sell push e-mail products, they need to match the technology's advantages with the customers' needs which, amongst enterprises, often include a relentless desire for accessibility and connectivity.

"One of the main challenges is the lack of awareness in the technology itself and its benefits," explained Husni El Assi, general manager at Sony Ericsson Middle East.

"We have an ongoing educational programme for our distributors and retailers and that is how we update our business partners on the latest innovations and the latest technologies available in the mobile communications industry. In addition to that we have our merchandising team which is in regular contact with the trade and helps to educate and inform the retailers on a regular basis," he added.

Motorola reckons the key to the successful deployment of push e-mail so far has been the fact that everyone from operators, corporates and vendors have been singing from the same hymn sheet, touting the benfits of the technology. Bedrossian insists the channel also needs to get in on the act if push e-mail is to sustain momentum in the region. "We have operators in the region as well as mobile device manufacturers pushing push e-mail in the region. Etisalat, Du - companies from Oman to Saudi - everybody has started actively marketing push e-mail, be it Blackberry or Microsoft Exchange. Demand has therefore picked up considerably."

He argues it is key for the resellers in the region to be a stakeholder in this service, actively educate the customers and raise awareness amongst end users and individuals who work within corporations so that they go back to their company and explains the benefits of the technology.

Emitac Mobile Solutions (EMS) has been at the forefront of the technology's deployment in the region by distributing the Blackberry, which generated huge popularity as the first mobile device to incorporate push e-mail. "The phenomena is that everyone wants to be connected all of the time," observed Nasir Aijaz, senior manager, business analysis and strategy at EMS. "It's the convenience that is attached to it - users don't want to carry around laptops - the biggest thing that a device like a Blackberry offers is the freedom to move," he explained.

El Assi reckons the technology has caught on due to an array of obvious benefits it provides to the end user. "Information is available anytime, anywhere and the workforce is always connected. It offers better customer service and retention, a more productive workforce and a more efficient use of limited resources," he said.

Some vendors perceive push e-mail as merely the first step of a bigger picture. Devassy at Nokia reckons businesses are gravitating towards mobility and the concept of push e-mail lays the foundations for a host of other services and applications that will allow the user to extends their office environment into a mobile handheld device.

"When we're offering a solution, we're offering a platform for mobilising everything. So when we go to the business - we say ‘you can mobilise push e-mail, but push e-mail alone is very basic and it will be pervasive,'. In 24 months it'll be just like SMS, everyone with a phone will have push e-mail," Devassy divulged. "What we're saying is if you first start with push e-mail and you find that your staff are comfortable with push e-mail, then on the same platform we can also mobilise your ERP, and your CRM, and your field force and sales force - we can pretty much mobilise your whole organisation, but it has to happen step by step, and push e-mail is just the first step," he revealed.

EMS claims the Blackberry is moving towards a similar goal by offering end users all of the functionality they would have in the office into a mobile device. "The Blackberry add-ons can connect to CRM systems or even GPRS systems," claimed Aijaz. "Recently I saw an airline booking and confirmation system on a Blackberry. You can book your tickets, cancel or amend them, and it will tell you about cancellations and delays to your flights - these add-on functions are becoming very important," he said.

Resellers play an imperative role in realising this vision for end users in the region and can really gain popularity amongst customers by installing these additional features. Push e-mail is enabled by utilising messaging solutions such as Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Domino or Novell GroupWise. By understanding how to manipulate these technologies, resellers can really tap into the lucrative prospects that push e-mail technology poses.

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