Nokia eyes corporate mobility

Nokia takes aim at corporate mobility management.

Nokia took a small step toward a big goal last week. That step is a new version of its device-management software, which lets customers control and provision mobile devices, such as smart-phones and PDAs.

Nokia took a small step toward a big goal last week.

That step is a new version of its device-management software, which lets customers control and provision mobile devices, such as smart-phones and PDAs.

Nokia's goal is to be the linchpin in corporate mobility by offering a variety of products, from handsets to server software that together give mobile workers secure access to enterprise applications.

Achieving that goal is the burden of the Enterprise Solutions division, created in 2004, under former HP executive Mary McDowell. In 2005 the division's net sales, including enterprise-class smart-phones, network firewall and VPN products, and now mobile e-mail and device management software, amounted to $1.05 billion, less than 3% of Nokia's total sales. Worse, Nokia executives cited the division's losses as one drag on 2005 profits. Nokia officials say the division is scheduled to be profitable in 2007.

Key acquisition

Nokia confirmed the importance of the new business unit in 2005, however, when the board approved the $430 million acquisition, completed two months ago, of Intellisync, a software vendor offering data-synchronization middleware with an application for push e-mail and a suite of device-management applications.

"This acquisition really expands their role into mobile e-mail, groupware and [personal information management]," says Cliff Raskind, director of wireless enterprise strategies for Strategy Analytics in Boston. "And it gives them instant presence with [Code Division Multiple Access] carriers in the United States, where Nokia has had almost no presence."

The Intellisync software will provide the underpinnings for Nokia Business Center, a 2005 package of hardware and software for push e-mail and for mobilizing a range of business applications that was initially targeted as an inexpensive offering for small-to-midsize companies. The offering was a direct challenge to Microsoft, Research in Motion and Sybase, with its Extended Systems acquisition.

The software announced last week introduces the Open Management Alliance Device Management standard into the Intellisync Device Management suite. The OMA-DM is a set of industry protocols and mechanisms for managing mobile- and wireless-connected devices. The release also will give administrators new controls over what file types and sizes can be downloaded to handhelds.

This kind of centralized administration is essential to make mobile devices a true extension of the enterprise, says Olivier Cognet, the division's executive vice president of business development.

"The driver for Nokia is this: If we just want to sell some more phones to the enterprise, that won't get us very far," he says. "We want to enable all the enterprise applications, not just e-mail, that these employees need."

To do so, the enterprise division is working in four areas. First, it is creating a new breed of mobile terminals, exemplified by the E Series handhelds released in late 2005 and designed for business users. The E Series can run GSM, wide-band CDMA, wireless LAN, and Bluetooth interfaces, and support an array of corporate e-mail applications, VoIP and Session Initiation Protocol-based services.

Second, it is securing the data on the devices and the network communications, via Nokia's longstanding security-appliance business, which generates about $300 million a year for the division, Cognet says. These firewall and VPN products are being refined to secure mobile devices better. "We'll keep adding to this [capability]," he says. "If a [mobile] terminal connects to the corporate e-mail infrastructure, the e-mail application has to be protected against a wider array of threats, since the [client] device is functioning outside the enterprise."

Targeting the enterprise

With global demand for data services expected to rise 20% to $22 billion this year compared to 2005, Nokia has been building up its enterprise offerings. The company has:

Introduced E Series handsets designed for enterprise users.
Spent $430 million to buy Intellisync for its mobile e-mail, middleware and device management software products.
Via partnerships with Avaya and Cisco, enabled its cellular handsets to work with corporate IP PBXs.
Extended device management to other platforms besides its Symbian-powered handsets.

Third, it is bringing an array of enterprise voice and data applications securely to the mobile device. One key project is the initial partnership, launched in 2005, with Avaya and Cisco to link Nokia mobile phones with their IP PBX products. “We think the cellular phone will be the primary business phone, a single number, a single voice mail system,” Cognet says. Customer trials are under way, and Cognet says this capability will debut later in 2006. At the same time, to simplify connections with the Nokia Business Center middleware, the enterprise division has been forging partnerships with e-mail vendors and more recently with IBM, Oracle, SAP and other application vendors.

The fourth area is device management, now largely based on the Intellisync products, which support various operating systems. Until now, most of Nokia’s focus has been on supporting its own Symbian-based devices. Is Nokia really willing to support non-Nokia devices? Cognet says he encountered that skepticism with Intellisync’s carrier and enterprise customers.

“I told them, ‘First, we are telling you that [supporting other platforms] is our intent, so judge us on our execution,’” Cognet says. “‘Second, the Enterprise Solutions division serves the enterprise, not [Nokia’s mobile phone division].’”

Learn more about this topic

Nokia Intellisync products

Open Mobile Alliance, Device Management Working Group

Nokia Enterprise Solutions Webpage

Nokia’s E Series devices for the enterprise


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Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.