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Blue Whale pushes email for free

Only it's really pulling, obviously

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Blue Whale Systems is providing a push email client for a variety of phone handsets, and plans to pay for it by putting a banner at the top of the screen.

Last year Chiswick-based Blue Whale started developing Java and native (Symbian) clients for its service, and these are now available to download. The premise is pushed email from standard POP-3 (or IMAP) servers, paid for with a small banner at the top of the application into which Blue Whale can feed advertisements.

Since RIM's Blackberry demonstrated that business users will pay to have their SPAM pushed onto handsets dozens of companies have entered the fray, but RIM's delivery mechanism was hard to compete with.

Desktop email clients connect to their servers every few minutes and check if there are new messages to download. This is not efficient but makes sense when bandwidth isn't a problem. RIM got round the mobile bandwidth shortage by sending alerts to handsets over the text-messaging service. These alerts are intercepted by the email client which then connects to the server over a data connection and downloads the new messages (MMS works exactly the same way).

This reduces data traffic at the cost of increased text message usage, but as data traffic has become cheaper the desktop method of regularly polling the server makes more sense. Especially now that signed applications can initiate a connection without having to check with the user every time.

S60 devices already include an email client which can do all that without pestering the user to buy stuff, but it's not easy to configure and Blue Whale reckons that users will put up with a little advertising in exchange for a step-by-step approach to configuring the service. The firm also supports Sony Ericsson's feature phones, and should be expanding to more Java platforms once they support signed midlets.

The service is firmly aimed at consumers, who won't have Exchange servers, or technical-support teams - but whether the latter want pushed e-mail is more difficult to say. For most ordinary people collecting e-mail is a proactive experience, but then before the Blackberry the same could have been said for business users. ®

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