RIP Mobile Middleware?


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I was reading an interesting post by MobileToday about Nokia’s move to remove the Blackberry Connect Client from their latest E Series of Devices.    Nokia plan NOT to ship the Blackberry client on their E71 and E66 devices but utilise the Mail for Exchange client that talks directly with Microsoft Exchange.   This client uses the inbuilt Microsoft Exchange Server Activesync that Windows Mobile devices also use. 

Obviously RIM is a competitor to Nokia (as RIM make most of their revenue from Hardware) so it’s not a surprising move.  It did get me thinking though that if Mobile email is to become a commodity and evolve past ‘mahogany row’  then the incremental costs incurred by having to deploy middleware need to be avoided. 

I often get the question from Mobile Operators sales team asking how Exchange vs Blackberry compares from a cost perspective when they forget that a customer needs to have a backend mail system to use Blackberry.  What’s surprising is that the middleware component often costs considerably more in licensing than the backend mail system per user. 

With Nokia, Symbian, Motorola and Apple licensing Exchange Activesync how long can these middleware solutions survive and will direct access to Exchange (or Lotus Notes) become the primary method of access to mobile email (just as Outlook Web Access has for browser based access)

I’m interested in your thoughts….

Comments (11)
  1. Chris Waterworth says:

    This really depends of the scope of the middleware component. If it is connecting you to backend mail systems as you mentioned, then I would agree. However I feel there will always be a place (for now) for a middleware solution when you are mobilising enterprise solutions to mobile devices, especially when you are merging data from multiple backends and presenting a combined representation.

  2. MobileAdmin says:

    Jason I often get annoyed by all these cost savings as security is not mentioned as part of the discussion.

    If you are talking straight TCO connecting to the user mailbox of course Exchange with ActiveSync will be cheaper.

    Now take a larger view and put security concerns and need for encryption, lock down of unwanted functionality etc and the TCO is cheaper for BES as it’s all in one box.  ActiveSync only does so much and unless your on Exchange 2007 it’s even less.  So you need a 3rd party of SCDM2007 which INCREASES your CAL per user so it’s not really apple to apple.

  3. pcolmer says:

    For me, as someone who has to support both BlackBerrys and WM devices, it is more about the connectivity for the device that is the issue. We often get non-UK staff procuring their own BlackBerry and despite telling them over and over again that they need a BES tarrif, they often get a BIS tarrif, which doesn’t work.

    Life is so much simpler when it comes to connecting WM – particularly with WM6.1.

  4. James says:

    I’ll agree with the above comment – the one advantage that BES (or even Goodlink, to an extent) have is KNOWN, PROVEN mobile device management.

    Exchange 2007’s extra device options require a premium CAL (so we’ve lost the cost savings, maybe).  SCDM might be a good option, but then you’re back to "middleware" again.  (It may be native Microsoft, but there’s still a middle layer to deploy and manage).

    Not to mention that BES is able to upgrade the software release on the devices – with the model that WM5/6 have been using so far – it’s up to the carrier to decide whether or not WM6.1 is an option or an upgrade for older devices.  SCDM doesn’t do me much good if there are hundreds of WM5 devices using Exchange Activesync and I can do NOTHING with them beyond a basic password policy…

  5. Kristin says:

    In my view, service-based architecture (from Good or Blackberry) provides better security and, typically, it’s easier to manage and simpler for IT.  

    There’s also longer battery life and faster message delivery.

  6. MSDNArchive says:

    Kristin – I’d love to understand why you think it offers better Security ?

  7. Fred says:

    Clearly the new Mobile mgmt suite from MS is on par to BES.  I do question the term middleware given the servers we have to put in the DMZ to support mobile mgmt.

    Given the future of handheld devices is likely a larger consumer play – meaning the firm won’t buy your handheld, you will buy what you want as long as the centeral servers can lock it down to corporate security requirements – I think RIM has a tough go ahead and the only thing saving them for now is that they are clearly the winners on ensuring very little bandwidth being used.

  8. MSDNArchive says:

    Fred – you are right middleware is a difficult term however if all you need is just Mobile Email then Exchange 2007 might provide all the management you need.  In terms of bandwidth that discussion is becoming irrelevant due to a lot of the operators bundling data now with their service plans.  The issue left for bandwidth consumption is really just roaming which again will probably be addressed soon.

  9. MobileAdmin says:

    Jason – bandwidth comsumption DOES matter in that it directly impacts the battery life of the device.  If I take a Blackberry and put it head to head with a WM device the WM due to chatty ActiveSync operations and the need to fully download attachments impacts the battery so much before end of day the device is drained.

    Blackberry still has a more efficient delivery method which combined with all the layers of security they provide via BES is still the best in class.

    I think you will see users able to purchase from a selection of devices and the majority of corporations having a "approved" list of devices with varied levels of intergration.  Blackberry via MDS also easier, cleaner and I’d venture more secure access to internal websites / resources due to BES is the sole entry point.  Everything from device to BES is fully encrytped either 3DES or AES which is better then SSL only.

    MS needs to take SCMDM and make it part of exchange or a greater subset of SCMDM so your TCO is similar to Blackberry / BES as for now MS is more expensive to match from a security / reporting aspect.

  10. Jason says:

    MobileAdmin – which devices are you comparing for battery life?  The real challenge we have is that many people are comparing a 3G windows mobile device to a 2G Blackberry and the issue is not the method of mail delivery but in fact network performance.

    For the security – with Windows Mobile and Exchange you can utilise 3DES and AES if you wish.  

    Many of the policies from SCMDM have already been integrated into Exchange 2007 so if Mobile Email is your major requirement then you may be able to provide that natively with Exchange rather than requiring SCMDM.

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