We issued our mock RFI to leading companies in the wireless e-mail market. Unfortunately, two prominent players--Microsoft and IBM--were no-shows. IBM declined our invitation without providing a reason, while Microsoft directed us to one of its partners, Infowave, which also declined. The companies that did participate--Extended Systems, Good Technology, Research in Motion (RIM), a Sprint-Seven partnership, Synchrologic and T-Mobile--represent a cross-section of the industry.
They also provide a good mix of technical approaches that match up with the current market. A recent research report from the Yankee Group identified three categories of wireless e-mail:
Behind-the-firewall server solutions: Organizations that implement behind-the-firewall server systems install gateways that work with existing e-mail environments, primarily Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Domino, and use public wireless networks to send and receive mail using mobile devices. Extended Systems, Good, RIM and Synchrologic provide behind-the firewall solutions, while both Sprint and T-Mobile offer these systems as options.
Network-based solutions: Organizations that don't want the management overhead associated with behind-the-firewall solutions can turn to service providers for help, essentially outsourcing the gateway services while still integrating with existing enterprise e-mail systems. Sprint and T-Mobile use this approach.
Desktop redirectors: In some respects the simplest solution, the desktop redirector distributes the gateway function to individual client computers, where a redirector transparently moves e-mail from the client to the user's mobile device. Desktop redirectors are effective because they link your desktop e-mail client to the mobile device--it doesn't matter what's on the back end. However, this type of solution doesn't scale well, and often has security and reliability problems. Sprint and T-Mobile offer desktop redirector solutions.