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Seven snaps up Smartner

Mobile mail wars heat up

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White-label mobile email vendor Seven has snapped up Smartner for an undisclosed sum.

Seven provides middleware software that networks use to deliver email to mobile phones, although it also offers a consumer service. Customers include Vodafone, Cingular, DoCoMo and O2, and around half the Treos in the world use Seven software out of the box without most of the users even knowing it.

But Seven seems content for now with its subterranean public profile, preferring to let its rivals take it in the chops. And there's some logic to this. It has gambled that RIM's email proxy business is already a commodity, so its own carrier offering undercuts RIM and Good quite substantially, by around 60 to 70 per cent. And Seven already boasts many more seats - "an order of 10x at least" - than its high-profile rivals.

All of which is music to the carriers' ears. They must prove they can offer services like this reliably, or else they face becoming commoditized bit pipes themselves.

Seven doesn't seem at all phased by this, especially now that Microsoft has effectively sacrificed its own handset OEM business to shore up Exchange revenues.

As CEO Bill Nguyen put it to El Reg, "I'd hate to be between Microsoft and Nokia while they try and beat each other up!"

"The clear message enterprise customers have given Nokia and Microsoft is: I want to pick the network, I want to pick a wide range of devices, and I want to use my existing mail system. In which case, you can build it all yourself, or find a partner."

With its close ties to Nokia, Smartner gives Seven something it has lacked: a company with a good working client on Symbian smart phones. Your reporter experimented with a beta version Seven's native client for UIQ recently only to be told it needed a hardware reset to work, which would lose all the data no the phone. Seven tells us it hasn't abandoned this project, contrary to what we wrote in an earlier version of this article, but believes the Smartner software is complimentary. Smartner even has a client for (may it rest in peace) Series 90.

Despite its litigation wars with Visto (think RIM vs Good, only nastier) Seven plans an expansion into Europe, where no vendor or model has established any kind of hegemony. It's all to play for. ®

Must-reads from our archives

Smartphone wars over, Symbian and MS both lost? [March 04]
Microsoft faces phone annihilation [March 03]
We're being spanked by Nokia - Gates [Oct 02]
Microsoft's masterplan to screw phone partner - full details [Jan 03]
Gates rails at proprietary Symbian , looks for the insanity defence [May 00]
UI wars tore Symbian apart - Nokia [Feb 04 - historic]

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