Mirapoint Inc. has started shipping what it claims is the first messaging server appliance to support the Wireless Access Protocol (WAP).
Called WAPmail Direct, the device is designed for large companies that want to offer e-mail support to users of WAP-enabled telephones and handheld computers. Because it is a network appliance rather than a software application, WAPmail Direct offers simple setup, easy operation and high reliability.
Mirapoint's appliances provide embedded support for many e-mail standards including POP, IMAP, HTML, XML, WML and now WAP. Because the appliances don't need gateways to translate between IMAP and WAP, their performance is faster than alternative approaches, Mirapoint officials say.
WAPmail Direct provides end users with a single, unified inbox that can be accessed through Microsoft Corp. Outlook from a work PC, the Web from a home computer and WAP while on the road. With WAP devices, end users enter a corporate URL to access their inboxes and can then read, compose, forward and reply to messages. WAPmail Direct also provides filtering so mobile users can prioritize the messages they want to download and read.
Space4rent.com, a Carlsbad, Calif. provider of managed IT services, is using WAPmail Direct to provide e-mail support to its sales people and engineers in the field. These employees access their messages using WAP-enabled phones from Sprint Corp. and Verizon Communications Inc. and handheld organizers from Palm Inc.
WAPmail Direct "is a great way to get them their e-mail in a timely, fully integrated fashion," says Tony Doan, director of engineering. "It's extremely easy to set up and very cost effective. Other products require a whole other server, plus you have the software costs."
Mirapoint's existing customers can download WAPmail Direct software to run on its Internet Message Servers. New customers can buy a server with WAPmail Direct installed. The cost for WAPmail Direct is as little as 50 cents per user, per month for large organizations.
Mirapoint also plans to support iMode, a competing standard for wireless messaging being tested in Japan.
Mirapoint's wireless strategy "makes great sense," says Dana Gardner, research director for messaging and collaboration at Aberdeen Group Inc. "WAP is an area that is complex, and it's new territory, so any turnkey approach will be welcome."
Gardner says Mirapoint's WAPmail Direct makes it easy for companies to try wireless messaging without a big investment or a great deal of IT support. It's also easy for companies to expand their WAP support as usage grows by simply adding another WAP-enabled box.
"Another nice aspect of the server appliance approach is that if WAP is in today and iMode is in six months from now, it's no great loss," Gardner adds. "You can yank out one device or add on two or three others running different protocols."
Founded in 1997, Mirapoint sells messaging appliances to such large companies as Cisco Systems Inc. and Incyte Genomics Inc.