Indicative sales numbers from a credible source are difficult to come by, especially on handset sales. But we got twice lucky.

India sales numbers in calendar 2006:

  • Number of Windows Mobile smartphones = 50,000
  • Number of Blackberry devices = 29,000

This Deccan Hearld article gives the impression that Microsoft wants to take Blackberry head-on and is positioning itself as the leader in that segment.

The article says that “Windows Mobile is the number one player in the smartphone category in India, according to IDC”. Leader or not depends on how you define the smartphone category. Nokia is the undisputed leader in India. I’m sure it is the leader in the smartphone category as well. Just to put things in perspective: Nokia sells 4 lakh phones in a day. The “smartphone” definition taken maybe those phones which are PDA-like in their form-factor with a touch-screen. These kind of phones are not for mass-consumption as they usually require a stylus or two-hand operation. Touch-screen/Stylus operated phone with PDA-like large form-factor and QWERTY keypads are popular only in the enterprise segment.

Microsoft has an advantage over Blackberry due to a large installed base of its Exchange server in enterprises, which can be mobile enabled for Push Mail with just a software update. Which is not the case with Blackberry, were a company has to purchase additional Blackberry server also.

“Since Microsoft provides the exchange server for the push email facility on Windows Mobile, the hansets manufacturers are not required to incur cost on this. This lowers the overall cost of ownership for the handsets

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Story on Microsoft’s India Development Centre (IDC) in Hyderabad, which is developing some key mobile technology applications for the Windows Mobile platform.

The Hyderabad centre has total responsibility for mobility applications like Office Mobile, Office Communicator Mobile and Microsoft Mobile Media.

Sudeep Bharati, director (developer tools) at Microsoft IDC-Hyderabad:

Hyderabad is the only Microsoft remote development centre (outside US) that’s doing mobile applications, databases and design environment work. The rest of the company’s Windows mobile initiatives are done out of its global HQ in Redmond.

According to Microsoft officials, the global business opportunity in the enterprise mobile applications business would be in excess $750m in terms of revenue and is growing at nearly 35% annually.

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British Telecom, one of the world’s largest telecom services provider, plans to launch basic fixed-line telephony services in India, to support the company’s corporate customer base.

The launch of fixed-line services by BT is for attracting corporates, particularly MNCs as they use the company to link up to their branch offices in the rest of the world.

Andy Green, CEO, BT Global Services said that the only interest BT has in mobile telephony lies in the converged services for the corporate sector, which is in persistence with BT’s policy for businesses outside Europe.

The British telecom giant is also scouting for an Indian partner to provide data and phone services through VPN to corporates.

“The company has plans for a JV in India, wherein the BT would hold 74% stake, to serve the corporate sector,

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Companies in Bangkok and Singapore are the most ready to mobilize their businesses, according to a recent study conducted by independent research house Saffron Hill.

The Nokia sponsored study surveyed key business and IT decision makers across 300 companies in Bangalore, Mumbai, New Delhi, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

These included questions about the organization’s usage of mobile applications such as mobile e-mail and calendar, distribution of mobile devices to employees, supporting infrastructure and device management and security policies.

Saffron Hill collated the data to plot each company’s rating or what Nokia coins, “Mobility Readiness Index” that indicates the awareness and intention to adopt a mobility strategy.

Bangkok emerged with the highest level of readiness, at a mean score of 225, followed by Singapore at 193 and Bangalore at 170.

However, Nalappan noted, the companies’ readiness to go mobile did not always correspond directly to how well they had executed a mobility strategy.

None of the 50 respondents in New Delhi have implemented policies to manage mobile devices in their company, even though 58% have made at least two mobile applications available to their staff.

In other countries 82% view security as a key concern when they purchase enterprise mobility tools. In India only 32%–the lowest percentage–see security as a key concern, where 55% view best connection as the most important component.

The three most-used mobile applications among respondents are:

  • Mobile e-mail (58%)
  • Mobile calendar and contact (47%)
  • Access to intranet (42%)

Other key findings, across all four countries, include:

  • 21 percent currently do not provide employees access to mobile applications
  • 81 percent have installed antivirus software on the mobile devices
  • 45 percent plan to increase mobile device purchases for their employees
  • 92 percent use password protection
  • 56 percent have security policies, while only 13.3 percent have policies to manage mobile devices
  • 43 percent allow employees to work from home
  • 74 percent recognize importance of providing employee training for mobile tools

Source: ZDNet India

Enterprise

Microsoft has plans to take on Blackberry in the Indian enterprise market by promoting the push email capability of its Windows Mobile 5.0 platform.

Microsoft has the “Exchange advantage”. There are around 2000 enterprises in India that currently host Microsoft Exchange servers.

Microsoft officials contend that while the Blackberrry server needs middleware to access enterprise servers (which adds to the cost of the solution), it has no such issue with the Exchange servers. However for non-Microsoft Exchange customers, Microsoft too will have to use third-party middleware solutions.

Advantages of Microsoft push-email over Blackberry:

All of Microsoft’s products have a mobility component to them. They also have a consistent look and feel. Customers want us to extend the Microsoft ease-of-use to other mobile devices too. And we can do it seamlessly and hence increase the productivity manifold,”

“Windows Mobile devices benefit from their ability to support things like Global Positioning System (GPS) and mapping technology and extended collaboration, while still integrating smoothly with existing Microsoft applications.

It plans to introduce this service in around 15 handset models, prices starting from around Rs 15,000.

Microsoft’s major Windows Mobile device-maker partners in India are iMate, HP, O2 and Eten.

I think Blackberry’s performance in India has not been anything to write home about. Even as the exclusive provider of Blackberry, Airtel has only managed to garner about 40,000 subscribers in 2 years. At the end of fiscal year 2006, RIM had five million BlackBerry subscribers worldwide.

Now that the exclusive period with Airtel is over, Reliance and Hutch too are expected to start offering BlackBerry powered push-email.

Hutch had announced a rival service called HutchMail last year, but am not sure if it was commercially launched.

See Also:
Hutch challenges Airtel on mobile mail
Reliance trialing BlackBerry

Enterprise

Dr. Jai Menon, Group CIO of Bharti Airtel, talks about the company’s famous outsourcing strategy. If you are still wondering how can an operator outsource its network – read to find out.

Instead of funneling huge CAPEX on infrastructure, processes and people, he tested what he considered a “true utility computing model” by outsourcing the company’s call center and business IT systems, with plans to outsource content and service delivery systems in the near term. To carry it out, he partnered with the likes of IBM, Nortel and Oracle and utilized different payment models from revenue per share to cost per all, depending on what works for the parties involved.

Menon believes that the on-demand model has effectively supported the company’s rapid growth curve. Bharti now serves 18 million subscribers and targets to reach 100 million mark in four to five years’ time.

The idea was to outsource the provisioning of streams of IT, including what Menon and his team classified as “classic IT” or CIT, covering business IT systems such as billing and care and enterprise IT including ERP and intranets. It also outsourced Contact Center Technology or CCT involving speech enabled IVRs, network virtualization and voice loggers. Currently, the company is finalizing its model for Service Delivery platform covering a comprehensive content platform that works across heterogeneous networks including mobile, broadband and value added services.

The company has also unified its fixed line, ISP, IDD and mobile business under one brand, Bharti Airtel.

Menon says operators could test blended formula that puts into account revenue, churn rate, customer statistics as part of the equation and decide on which agreement with work best. “The important thing is for you and your partners be aligned on the same objectives, sort that out and you’ll make Utility Computing work for you,” Menon concludes.

Enterprise

Express computer has a nice article on growing security issues faced by enterprises with an increasing number of employees storing company data on mobile devices.

The article quotes a survey where it was discovered that almost 30% of users store their PINs, passwords and other critical information on their handheld devices without enabling the basic security features present on the system. Information such as customer contacts, e-mail details, passwords and bank account details, as well as that related to private matters, is getting stored in devices without much consideration to security.

As a result, a lost PDA or smartphone with no protection makes easy pickings for thieves, hackers or competitors with regard to corporate information. This could have an impact on customer confidence and damage a company’s reputation.

Few tips on mobile security for CIOs

  • Create a mobile device security policy specifically for handheld devices.
  • Start an awareness programme to make the new policy known within the organisation.
  • All security settings should be maintained and controlled centrally.
  • Deploy Enforceable Mandatory Access Control on all devices as the first line of defence.
  • Purchase PDAs for employees; never allow users to connect their personal devices to the company network.
  • Standardise on a few brands of devices, and support only a few mobile operating systems.
  • Use Password/PIN standards.
  • Consider automatic and user-transparent encryption of all data on mobile devices and removable media.
  • Track and label devices; treat mobile devices like desktops and laptops, labelling them and keeping records.
  • Treat wireless like the Internet. Use a VPN on top of WEP to connect to the internal network.

Another important aspect is protecting information that is being transferred from sniffing and spoofing.

The transmission of data from handheld devices to the corporate network, either using the corporate Wi-Fi network or a third-party network, should be encrypted using strong algorithms. For example, the transfer of mail in most smartphones is encrypted at the application layer between clients installed on the mobile devices and the server. Therefore, the

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