IBM has backed up Sony Ericsson's P900 smartphone with a set of software offerings including a virtual private network feature and an easier way to set up access to enterprise applications.
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The companies announced their partnership at the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association's CTIA Wireless IT & Entertainment conference taking place this week in Las Vegas.
The deal extends a similar partnership involving Sony Ericsson's P800.
Mobile employees will be able to connect securely to applications over an intranet or the internet using the VPN capability, said Letina Connelly, director of strategy and marketing for the Pervasive Computing Division of IBM.
IBM's WebSphere Everyplace Connection Manager can create an encrypted VPN on both IP networks and non-IP or private packet radio networks.
The basic applications IBM is making available on the phone are e-mail and personal information manager (PIM) functions. Its WebSphere Everyplace Access middleware, which includes both server-based and client elements, supports both Microsoft Outlook and IBM Lotus Notes for e-mail and PIM. For now, it will support only Lotus Notes Instant Messaging.
WebSphere Everyplace Access also will make it easier for IT departments to get employees going with other enterprise applications on the P900, Connelly said. These might include inventory, order tracking and enterprise resource planning applications from IBM or other suppliers.
Companies already can provide access to those kinds of applications on the P800, but it requires special work for every application. Adding new applications now will be faster and less expensive, she said.
IBM client software for the P900 will also allow workers to move among different networks without losing data or having their work interrupted, Connelly said. No involvement by the carrier is required.
Although the P900 does not come with Wi-Fi wireless Lan capability, the software should be able to do smooth hand-offs between Wi-Fi and cellular networks if P900 users are able to add that capability in the future. The P900 already comes with Bluetooth local wireless capability.
The software will be available beginning this quarter. A starter package from IBM called Mobile Office Jumpstart, which limits application support to PIM and e-mail, carries a one-time cost of $25,000 and is designed for 25 to 100 users.
For more than 100 users, pricing is based on the number of server processors being used. It should start around $80,000 per processor.
The P900, a GSM/GPRS smartphone, will be available in Europe and Asia this month and in North America and South America in the first quarter of 2004. Not counting carrier discounts, its price should range from €400 to €500.
Stephen Lawson writes for IDG News Service