Funambol offers open-source push e-mail

Funambol Inc. plans to begin offering on Monday a beta version of an open-source software product that enables push e-mail to a wide range of mobile devices.

Companies can use Funambol Version 3 to offer push e-mail service from Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Domino, Internet Message Access Protocol and Post Office Protocol e-mail servers to handsets that have SyncML, an industry standard for synchronizing data between devices, Funambol said. Many phones come with SyncML, but Funambol offers client software for devices running software from Microsoft Corp., Research In Motion Ltd. and PalmOne Inc.

Funambol Version 3 pushes e-mail from the back-end server into whatever e-mail client is already on the phone. Handset users can send, receive and forward messages, as well as synchronize calendars, to-do lists, contact lists and other data.

The product should be attractive to companies that don't want to be locked into a proprietary product that marries a specific back-end server to a certain brand or a limited number of devices, such as those offered by RIM or Microsoft, said Fabrizio Capobianco, CEO of Funambol. "The vertical solutions where you must use one hardware and software vendor is really limiting for a lot of enterprises," he said.

In addition, Funambol Version 3 could help companies reduce costs associated with the end-user device. Many of the competing mobile e-mail offerings require high-end smart phones. But Funambol Version 3 is compatible with any device that has SyncML, which includes a wide variety of more-standard handsets.

Funambol Version 3 will also be offered to mobile operators that can deliver the push e-mail offering to customers. Funambol doesn't have a solid date when the final product will be available.

Funambol joins a host of other companies, such as Visto Inc., Good Technology Inc. and Nokia Corp., that are aggressively competing in the push e-mail market. Capobianco thinks that many companies that already use open-source software will be drawn to Funambol because it's an open-source company.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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