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Success spawns competition, but for RIM, the attacks are now coming from all sides.

On Monday Microsoft vowed to give its Exchange 2003 customers wireless push email capabilities similar to RIM's Blackberry Connect middleware for free in a service pack later this year.

By licensing its Exchange push software to Nokia and Symbian, Microsoft has indicated that it is prepared to weaken its smartphone platform in order to shore up its Exchange revenue.

This is entirely consistent with previous fits of Redmond paranoia, in which Microsoft feared that Windows would become "a poorly debugged device driver layer", in Marc Andreessen's reckless words. In this case, the argument is that RIM could expand its email capabilities to perform Exchange-like functions, leaving Microsoft to sell a rather expensive directory server.

But less well-known names which sell primarily to carriers have long promised to undercut RIM's license fee, too. One of these, Seven, has today found a partner in Yahoo!, offering a carrier-based push email for a tenth of the price of RIM's Blackberry Connect. It isn't an Exchange service, and it is periodic delivery rather than true push; but it does the job.

Yahoo!'s mobile email is initially a modest deal, available only to Sprint PCS customers in the US, but it bring the capabilities to the consumer at a very low cost: $2.99 a month. It's available on five devices including the Treo 650 and 600.

In Japan, Seven offers a mobile email service on DoCoMo and KDDI phones using Brew and Java respectively, and has promised to bring this to the UK, where it already provides email for O2 and Orange. Arch-rival Visto hasn't been idle - last month it announced a global win with Vodafone for its own wireless sync software. ®

Related stories

Seven snaps up Smartner
Business email services squeeze BlackBerry
A Yahoo! phone? Nokia can help
Visto moves into mid-range phones with Nextel
Mobile email consolidation kicks off
Microsoft goes after Blackberry with Magneto
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