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Seven releases upgrade to mobile data services platform

Seven has released an upgrade to its mobile data services platform.

Seven has announced the second major release of System Seven, the company's mobile data services platform.

The new release includes Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) encryption and Secure Socket Layer (SSL) end-to-end security, as well as real-time, always-on access to corporate applications, whether connected to a mobile network or working in an 'offline' state. In addition, Seven has filled out its management team over the last few months and opened offices in Europe, Japan and Asia-Pacific.

Context

In April, Seven appointed Mark Biestman, a one-time Commerce One worldwide operations executive, as president and chief executive officer. Biestman will work with cofounder and now chief technology officer Bill Nguyen as the company attempts to drive global customer adoption. Seven has also added Mike Wallach, senior vice president of worldwide operations, and a new vice president of marketing, Mike Micucci, to help beef executive management. Seven's customers include Cingular, Sprint PCS and BT Cellnet. It has so far raised $64 million in two funding rounds from Ignition, Greylock, Softbank Asian Infrastructure Fund, Bowman Capital and other investors.

Key features

One highlight of the latest release is its support for new devices, such as three new Sprint PCS phones, the Handspring Treo 300, the Samsung SPH-I300 and the Kyocera QCP 6035.

There is also support for two-way, over-the-air synchronization, whether the device is connected to the network or working offline. Using client software, Seven offers connection to corporate directories, and frequently used contacts can be held in cache. Synchronization intervals can be specified and is integrated with power management that checks the battery level of a device. No cradle synchronization is required.

The latest upgrade includes additional push email capabilities, alerts, notifications, the ability to attach and send documents, and access to corporate directories.

Technology

Seven's software is deployed via wireless carriers and offers secure, real-time mobile access to applications such as Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Notes, IMAP and POP3 email, calendar, corporate directory, personal contacts, tasks and documents. System Seven is offered in two versions for business users: Personal Edition for individuals or workgroups and Enterprise Edition for entire companies.

By installing software on a desktop, System Seven can create a secure virtual private network tunnel between the carrier's servers and the desktop that provides the user with all contact information in real time. In addition to Outlook and Notes information, users can access documents on their desktops. Seven claims to compartmentalize authentication down to the individual user and to employ link-based security that is encrypted at the gateway and decrypted at the device. This mobile enterprise service is then marketed by the carrier to the corporation.

By rooting its services in network middleware, Seven is able to tout its solution as having 'zero footprint,' minimal startup costs and little admin work for the enterprise network manager, all wrapped up in a secure environment.

The wireless carrier pays Seven licensing fees, while charging monthly fees of $5-20 per subscriber, based on the number of subscribers to the service. Sprint is offering a personal edition of its corporate service at $2.99 per month and user – a figure Seven management compares with the $40 charged for the BlackBerry service through VoiceStream.

Customers

Sprint PCS is using Seven's latest back-end solution release to market its new mobile enterprise email and calendaring services, Business Connection Personal Edition. By putting the infrastructure software within the carrier, the customer gets a much faster deployment, there is less of a cost burden for the enterprise, and enterprises get assurances of security and management from the carrier, according to Seven management. Through Sprint PCS's Personal Edition (and the soon to be released Enterprise Edition) or Cingular's Xpress Mail program, end users can get their Outlook or Notes email in real time; with other software, it has to be redirected.

For the carrier-based model to succeed in a big way, however, Seven's service offerings will need to go far beyond the email and messaging platforms that the company is selling today.

Management told us that the company, with a view to extending its groupware architecture, has been working with carriers to build sales force automation and customer relationship management application prototypes. Carriers have a strong incentive to pursue additional data transfer applications beyond email to show that they are viable resources for small and large business customers.

In the meantime, Seven is attempting to win corporate technology executives by giving them management tools as part of its System Seven Enterprise Edition. It is also hoping that individual employees adopting Personal Edition will drive large enterprise deals.

Numerous telecommunications companies are banking on wireless data as the next great wireless service, but so far progress has fallen short. With the physical limitations of next-generation networks (yes, there are plenty) as well as mobile devices, companies continue to struggle to make wireless data speedy enough or compelling enough to sell to business customers.

Competition

Next-generation networks will gradually obtain an acceptable level of resiliency and reliability, and with a growing number of companies clamoring to offer wireless data services similar to Seven's, competition is getting fierce. Many large competitors such as Oracle, HP, IBM, Aether and Microsoft are telling corporate customers they can offer wireless data services by installing new servers and wireless software. Many also sell into carriers. We think enterprises could be attracted to Seven's solution based on security alone: because the service comes from the carrier, emails are not forwarded to an external server, which makes it much harder to gain unauthorized access to e-mail or folders.

U.S. market leader RIM has been extremely busy adding new features and enhancements to its BlackBerry wireless solution, including new world-band GSM/GPRS voice-enabled han helds, other voice-enabled handhelds running on CDMA-1xRTT and iDEN networks, increased back-end management tools for IT departments, and wireless synchronization of email deletions and PIM information. This week RIM announced it will include an integrated and secure software application for viewing email attachments with BlackBerry wireless devices. The new application will enable secure access to email attachments by leveraging core BlackBerry features, including end-to-end security (with Triple DES encryption), always-on capabilities, multi-network support and centralized management. Users will be able to view spreadsheets, presentations and graphics attachments in a variety of formats, including Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, WordPerfect, Adobe PDF, HTML and ASCII text. They will also be able to retrieve a summary of the document or a table of contents, and selectively view the part of the document that is relevant.

We are not sure what impact Seven's latest offering will have on Wireless Knowledge's existing deal with Sprint. Last September, Sprint and Wireless Knowledge announced an agreement to offer and bundle on a single bill a series of mobility applications that previously had to be billed separately by disparate vendors. Much like Seven now, Wireless Knowledge said at the time that it would try to sell enterprise customers on additional, customized mobilization apps, such as mobilized sales force automation and customer relationship management applications. Of course at that time Sprint had yet to upgrade to its data-friendly 1x network.

One reservation – unlike many of its competitors, Seven relies on a wireless carrier's sales force to distribute the software, and for carriers the lack of experience in selling to enterprises remains a challenge. Mobile devices, meanwhile, have to improve, and wireless networks also have to progress.


the451 (www.the451.com) is an analyst firm that provides timely, detailed and independent analysis of news in technology, communications and media. To evaluate the service click here.

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