REPORT

Wireless E-Mail Gaining Ground Slowly

Wireless technology is gaining traction among consumers, especially asWiFi hot spots continue to proliferate. But in enterprise environments, adoption of wireless services has been slowed by cost and uncertainty about their value.

Nevertheless, a new report by the Yankee Group forecasts an increase for corporate wirelesse-mail, with 9 million people, or 26 percent of the mobile workforce, using the service by 2007. Such growth, though less dramatic than that forecast for some other industry sectors, would represents a 300 percent increase in revenue for wireless providers.

Mobile Productivity

Overall, mobile productivity is an undeniable trend, supported by an expanding rangeof devices, such as Tablet PCs, and coalescing wireless transmission standards. The ability to collaborate from anywhere is essential to enterprises striving for real-time efficiency, and e-mailremains a vital collaboration application.

But building a specific business case based on general advantages can betough, and this quandary has slowed enterprise adoption of wirelesscommunication.

“It’s difficult to prove an ROI case with wireless e-mail,” Adam Zawel,director of wireless/mobile enterprise and commerce at the Yankee Group, toldthe E-Commerce Times. “It’s difficult to get a CFO to sign off on a deployment, unlesshe is convinced viscerally [of its value].”

In fact, a Yankee Group report published in mid-2002 identified lack of abusiness case as the most prominent barrier to wireless adoption among 800surveyed companies. Cost of equipment and training, network speedand insufficient numbers of potential users also were cited as hurdles.

Back-Door Access

“I’m a little surprised wireless e-mail hasn’t taken off more strongly,”Chris Fletcher, vice president and research director at Aberdeen Group,told the E-Commerce Times. “E-mail adoption has been a little slow. People areinvesting in ROI applications with a short payback. [These include] somesales force automation and field applications enabling faster dispatch oftechnicians and faster inventory management.”

But executive stubbornness can motivate resourceful workers to take matter intotheir own hands. For example, individuals using mobile devices in the field and while traveling can use easily available “redirector” programs to enable aconnection between their handheld device and the enterprise network.

“E-mail enjoys this back-door attack inside the enterprise more than otherapplications,” Zawel noted. “It’s an invasion that scares IT departmentsand, at the same time, convinces them [that wireless e-mail] is value.”

Prognosis

While there seems to be little question that wireless applications, ande-mail in particular, are in the cards for enterprises in the future, the timetable isspeculative. The Yankee Group study acknowledges that wireless e-mail will not come close to attaining the same reach as fixed-area e-mail in the foreseeablefuture. “But the decreasing cost of devices, wireless network connectivity,and IT administration and support will speed adoption within enterprisesover the next 5 to 7 years,” the report noted.

The study also pins responsibility for industry growth squarely on vendors.”Vendors need to design solutions that offer more user-friendly interfaces,support for emerging next-generation and WiFi networks, more robust offlinecapabilities and multiple synchronization,” the study’s author, Eugene Signorini, said.

E-mail is just part of the wireless puzzle, Signorini added. “Ultimately,enabling wireless e-mail will be only one part of a corporate mobilestrategy.”

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