Mobile Tech

Nokia Gives Cell Phones a Smart Spark With ActiveSync

Nokia shook up the smartphone marketplace Wednesday with news that it will expand the range of devices supporting Microsoft’s Exchange ActiveSync, the software maker’s corporate e-mail application, to all Nokia devices running the S60 Symbian operating system.

That will stretch the number of devices which include the Mail for Exchange feature by an additional 43 handsets. For businesses, the announcement essentially means that another 80 million mobile phones — the number of S60 converged devices shipped globally to date — are now in play and able to access corporate e-mail using Microsoft’s system.

In addition, the Finnish hardware manufacturer said that Mail for Exchange will be available out-of-the-box in future releases of its E-series and N-series handsets.

“It looks good. I’m going to have to do some thinking on the implications this has on what we’ve historically called the cell phone market,” said Bill Hughes, an In-Stat analyst, who demoed the new feature at the CTIA Wireless tradeshow held in San Francisco.

Who Needs a Smartphone?

Nokia’s decision to provide support for ActiveSync across a multitude of devices will have a deep impact on the smartphone market, said Hughes.

“Most of what people use smartphones for is wireless e-mail. Number two and three are synchronizing their contacts and synchronizing their calendar. When you can do that on more phones, I have to figure out how that will affect the market we call ‘smartphones,'” he explained.

Smartphones offer a greater number of features and capabilities, but “if you get 90 percent of the benefits of a smartphone [on a standard cell phone], then what’s the incentive? This is a significant announcement,” Hughes continued.

Nokia device owners who work with an organization that uses ActiveSync can set up Mail for Exchange on their mobile handsets from the e-mail setup plug-in on the home screen.

After the application has been set up, real-time access to office e-mail, calendar, contacts, tasks and company directory will be available via a data plan service provided by the user’s mobile phone carrier. Users will be able to set e-mail priorities, receive alerts for meeting request conflicts, access a standalone global address list application and download and edit a variety of attachments.

The reason Nokia is able to make this work is that its handsets — from the top-of-the-line models to entry-level devices — use the Symbian operating system. “It really is a smartphone operating system,” noted Hughes.

If I Only Had a Brain

Perhaps the largest factor that differentiates devices generally considered to be smartphones from those considered to be mere cell phones is the ability to download, install and run sophisticated mobile software applications.

“This democratizes some of the higher-end applications — some of the big drivers,” noted Hughes. “This is pretty significant not so much in the United States, because Symbian does not have as strong a presence here, but in Europe and definitely Asia.”

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