Sproqit launches true mobile access software

Start-up Sproqit Technologies has invited users to sign up for a download of its mobile access software.

Start-up Sproqit Technologies has invited users to sign up for a download of its mobile access software.

Instead of getting e-mail from a remote server, it operates your PC by remote control, showing the results in a viewer on your PDA.

Chief executive Peter Mansour left Microsoft's Windows CE division four years ago to start Sproqit.

The software uses a direct connection from the PDA to the PC, but had to deal with connectivity problems and the difficulties of displaying remote PC applications on small and varied PDA screens.

Mansour demonstrated the technology on a visit to London last week. It puts an agent on the PC, and a thin client on the PDA which displays output, while a server brokers communications between the two.

Applications are supported by plug-ins: so far, the software only works with Outlook, but other applications will follow, he said. It is easy to "sproqitise" other applications, said Mansour, since the Sproqit thin client abstracts the screen and controls of the mobile device.

The product handles 122 different file types, including zip, PowerPoint and pdf. "We are device-agnostic, carrier-agnostic and application-agnostic," said Mansour.

The Outlook support includes the ability to view, attach and send data files from the PDA. During the demonstration the attachments went very fast indeed as they were being sent from a desktop machine with broadband.

The service costs £8 per month for the use of a central Sproqit server, which sets up the connections. The software will be bundled with Treo 600s in the UK, thanks to a deal with distributor Hugh Symons Mobile Computing.

Subsequent versions aimed at businesses will have no monthly fee, said Mansour, as the connection server will be run by the company itself. The "group" server will come by the end of 2004, the "enterprise" server in 2005.

The product could worry IT managers, since it effectively turns the PDA into a remote control for a PC at home or on the desktop and, like other remote control applications, it can be set up to tunnel through corporate firewalls. Mansour's answer to this concern is that the software can be password-protected on the PDA, which will itself have a password option.

Sproqit had a financial hiccup last year, when its venture funding ran out and it reportedly laid off three-quarters of its 25 staff. It "pawned" some of its intellectual property to mobile application company Infowave and managed to find some more capital in July; enough to bring product out and finally stage its challenge to the incumbent players RIM, Good and Visto.

Meanwhile Visto is suing both Sproqit and Infowave (and another mobile software player, Seven) for patent infringement, and Sproqit is counter-suing.

Sproqit projects an image of techno-savvy people doing things because they can. In-house, staff have Sproqitised chat and other applications, and Mansour says one staffer is using his Treo 600 as remote control for the audio collection on his home PC/stereo. "The signal goes via the [mobile phone] network, so it's a bit slow," he admitted.

Peter Judge writes for Techworld.com

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