NEW YORK, AP- Nokia Corp. is joining a suddenly crowded field of BlackBerry rivals, becoming the first major cell phone maker to weigh into the mobile e-mail market with its own brand and service.
The Finnish company said the new application, Nokia Business Center, will join rather than replace the existing lineup of mobile e-mail and productivity options available on Nokia devices. Those include BlackBerry from Research in Motion Ltd., GoodLink from Good Technology Inc., and applications from Seven Networks Inc. and Visto Corp.
Much like those players, Nokia plans to offer the new service through wireless carriers, as well as sell it directly to businesses, beginning in the fourth quarter.
While at first the service will only be available on six Nokia smart phones running on the Symbian operating system, the company plans to make the application compatible with its entire product line, as well as Java-based handsets made by rivals including Motorola Corp.
Nokia”s service, introduced Tuesday, joins a drum beat of announcements by both prominent and upstart companies eyeing a market pioneered and long-dominated by BlackBerry — but only now beginning to expand beyond select professions such as lawyers and investment bankers into the business mainstream.
In June, Microsoft Corp. introduced a software bridge to transmit real-time e-mail between the company”s popular Exchange platform for corporate networks and its Windows Mobile operating system for cell phones and PDAs.
Good, meanwhile, forged deals with Cingular Wireless and Sprint Nextel Corp. to be featured in those carriers” product lineups alongside BlackBerry and their private label services, which are powered by Seven.
Research in Motion, which makes its own mobile devices in addition to providing the e-mail service, reported in June that there were 3.1 million BlackBerry users, a gain of nearly 600,000 in a three-month period.
That subscriber base represents nearly a third of the worldwide market, but only a tiny fraction of the world”s corporate e-mail accounts and cell phones.
With corporations paying monthly fees of $45 and more per employee, the mobile e-mail market stands as one of the more lucrative untapped opportunities in the wireless industry.
Similar to many rivals, Nokia will charge a one-time fee, in this case 1,800 euros ($2,200), for a server that connects internally to a company”s e-mail system and supports up to 400 users. A premium version of the device software is priced at 55 euros, or nearly $70, per user.
One key difference compared with BlackBerry and others, yet similar to the Microsoft approach, is that Nokia Business Center does not rely on a data center to steer message traffic between the devices and the corporate network. That effectively cuts out the middleman.
As with all mobile e-mail services, cellular carriers charge separately for the wireless connection.