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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

Canadian wireless email handheld manufacturer Research In Motion Ltd now has some very serious competition in the market in the shape of Good Technology Inc, which has finally publicly launched, having kept its plans secret since it was founded in March 2000.

Good Technology is located in Sunnyvale, California and boasts a distinguished list of venture capitalist backers. The company's lead investors include Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Benchmark Capital, who along with other investors have pumped over $60m into the group.

Showing the advantages of keeping early business development secret, the company has launched itself into the public eye with a client list of 20 large companies. It is launching three products, the GoodLink Server, the GoodInfo application delivery system, and the Good G100 wireless handheld. All but the handheld are available now. The handheld is due for launch sometime in the summer.

The company is aiming directly at RIM, and will offer its server software and service to RIM customers, as well as customers of its own handheld. Like RIM it is only looking at the corporate market, and will not sell to consumers directly.

RIM denies that the company poses a threat to its prospects (RIM is the incumbent in this segment with 321,000 subscribers in 14,400 companies), but it is vulnerable. Just last month, it announced that it would allow OEMs to license either the entire handheld or components of the device. This obviously means the company is trying to push its own server and service at the expense of the handheld devices - possibly extending both to non-RIM devices in the future. This makes good sense when aiming squarely at the corporate market.

Good Technology's offering hits RIM just here, by offering better server software as well as an optional device. If it can provide better synchronization and email integration than RIM, it could win considerable business from it, and potentially a large amount of other enterprise business, using different types of handheld.

The company's killer product could be the GoodInfo system, an application server for delivering the information to a wireless client. The company claims that existing web applications can be extended to the handheld in minutes, and served through its software. This also puts it into direct competition with other synchronization software vendors such as Synchrologic Inc, Extended Systems Inc and iAnwhere Solutions.

But doubts remain about the viability of the market for single-purpose mobile email terminals, and the market for mobile email messaging as a whole. Although RIM has been successful it is hard to tell if it has yet made the jump from executive toy to real business device, with an average of 22 users per company, RIM is a long way from having made the wireless email device into a must-have corporate device. With the launch of a variety of personal digital assistants and mobile phones with high-speed network connections, it is questionable how long RIM will be an incumbent in this market.

This could offer advantages for Good Technology, which is also competing at the middleware level, and attempting to make its software compatible with a variety of handhelds. Good Technology claims its key competitive advantage is in wireless synchronization, where devices do not need to be placed in a PC cradle to update their contents, which could be a big boon for users that want to only have to read an email once, and then delete it.

The initial version of its service works with Microsoft's Exchange email server software. It also plans to support IBMCorp's Lotus Notes groupware. A server software license costs $3,000 plus an additional $50 per seat, while the Good service will cost $45 a month for unlimited usage.

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