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Interviews With Mobile Computing Vendors
- Equinox -

EXTENDING e-MAIL TO MOBILE WORKERS IN MOBILE-AWARE FASHION 
(Notes Based on MobileInfo.com’s Interview with Mr. Sriram, CEO of Equinox - a supplier of e-mail enhancements for Mobile Workers  in Mid 2000) 

Challenges Facing the Mobile Professional Regarding E-Mail Attachments
The majority of corporate workers have come to depend on the convenience of interacting with their corporate e-mail, files, and databases via their wireless devices. However, stepping away from the corporate environment, the mobile worker realizes that they are unable to perform many of their everyday tasks. The technology challenge now facing corporations is how to effectively connect their mobile professionals to the corporate environment using portable or handheld devices over low-bandwidth wireless networks.

More specifically, mobility dictates a number of constraints on traditional e-mail software - both client and server version. Network bandwidth is low, and connection methods vary from one network to another. Printers for  important messages are not always available.  Moreover, the user is in a hurry and does not have the time or motivation to go through the e-mail in the same way as on the desktop. MobileInfo calls these requirements "Mobile-aware requirements of electronic messaging."  Equinox has addressed some of these unique requirements through their software solutions.

Equinox Solution
According to Mr. Sriram, Equinox can offer the mobile professional the convenience of the corporate intranet while on the road. For most professionals it is essential that they have access to corporate e-mail wherever there are. Mr. Sriram said that, typically, these professionals receive a lot of mail that have attachments. This causes problems when working over a low bandwidth dial-up network. Furthermore, they need access to the files that reside in their enterprise LAN. Our typical users are mobile professionals who need to have access to their e-mail, files and attachments while away from the office.

Three Equinox Products

1. Mail Companion
Equinox Mail Companion enables mobile workers to access their e-mail along with attachments in Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or Adobe PFD, ranging from 100 KB to 3MB.

Upon receiving an e-mail attachment, a user could do either of the following:

  • View the header or text or
  • View the header and text as well as the attachment.

Mr. Sriram described how convenient it is for the executive on the road to access attachments with Mail Companion.

Scenario
A corporate executive needs to view an e-mail attachment, which if it happens to be a large document, will take forever to download. However, with Mail Companion, whenever a new message is retrieved from the mail server, the content of the attachment is replaced with the ActiveNet remote attachment "stubs, typically about 200 bits of information, resulting in a faster downloading process.

The executive would now have access to the header, text and the ActiveNet remote attachment stub that has been downloaded. By clicking on the remote attachment stub within the mail reader, the executive knows the size and name of file, and now has several options for remotely manipulating the attachment.

  • Full or Partial View: The file can be selected in full, or by using the partial view feature, the executive can choose to view 5, 10, 15 or 20 percent summary of the document or the first 1000 to 3000 characters or select a specific page, which can be remotely faxed or printed. In some cases, the table of contents of the document would be sufficient for review.
  • Remote fax: The entire attachment or selected pages can be faxed to client at the touch of a button. No need for dial-up users to download the file, discount and then re-dial to send a fax.
  • Remote print: Attachments can be sent to a client’s printer for review.
  • Remote Forward: Forward e-mail messages with attachments.
  • Format Conversion: Attachments can be easily and quickly converted into text. Format conversion can significantly reduce network usage and make a complex document viewable on limited-capacity devices.

2. File Companion.
In a corporate office environment, we can simply click on network neighbor to access centralized information that is being shared by multiple personnel. However, while on the road, access to corporate files can be difficult, Mr. Sriram said

Scenario
A sales manager rushes out of the office to meet with an out-of-town client. During the course of the meeting the client requested a specific document, which the manager does not have. But with File Companion, the manager can browse the directories and files on the corporate LAN. The manager double-clicks on the requested file, which then evokes the ActiveNet remote controller, and in seconds he can preview the contents of the file. If the client wants the file sent to his e-mail address, the manager would evoke his e-mail file and send the file as an attachment. "Equinox software knows where the document is stored and will replace it with the original document and send it across the high speed network or it could be faxed to a remote location," added Mr. Sriram.

3. Conversion Companion
Many mobile professionals have come to rely on a Blackberry pager, Palm Pilot, or mobile phone to access e-mail but are restricted when they want to view attachments, in Word, Excel or Acrobat, and corporate files.

Scenario
To enhance the productivity of these devices, Equinox’s Conversion Companion will enable the user to view not only the header and the text of a message as well as the name and size of the file but also the contents of the attachment. Conversion Companion resides on the corporate server, i.e. WorkStyle Server. E-mail messages with an attachment are sent to the user’s wireless device and are simultaneously forwarded to a special conversion e-mail account. The attached document is stripped of any graphics, reformatted to fit the device, then resent to the user in a readable format. "For financial investors and brokers who frequently put out PDF reports, with the Equinox solution they have the ability to view the document with their Blackberry device, thus making it a more powerful tool," Mr. Sriram added.

Uniqueness of the Equinox Solution

MobileInfo - In such a highly competitive market, how does Equinox distinguish itself from its competitors?
Equinox -"We work with mail clients that support IMAP and POP3 protocols as well as Eudora and Lotus Notes. Working over very low-bandwidth networks, these mail clients can offer the user very few options: view the header and text or the entire header text and attachments, there are no options; no choices," said Mr. Sriram "This is were the Equinox solution is unique; the user has a number of options: to browse, to preview in full or in part, to print, to fax, or to forward. Based on feedback from our customers, there is nothing comparable in the market today."

Target Market
OEMs account for over 90 percent of Equinox’s primary target market, with selected enterprises making up its remaining customer base. Recently the company announced that Paradigm4, Inc. had signed on as a licensing partner. (Paradigm4’s E-Attach4 is powered by Equinox’s ActiveNet technology.) In the next two to three months, Equinox will be making similar announcements.

"We are currently in discussion with the Lotus Notes Group to provide their customers with the ability to browse Adobe PDF files. But those companies that have these solutions like Paradigm 4, channeling or licensing partners, are using Lotus Notes or Exchange.

"We have signed a contract with Wireless Knowledge, who are distributors of the Blackberry RIM solution, and they are now offering these solutions to their corporate customers with WorkStyle Server and the Blackberry devices. They license the products from us and then offer their customers a bundled solution," said Mr. Sriram.

How to Utilize the Equinox Solution
MobileInfo : If an enterprise wanted to utilize your solution, what would it need to purchase, and how would your solution integrate with its existing mail applications?

Equinox : Organizations using a Blackberry device or mobile phone would have to install an Equinox ActiveNet server in order to run the Conversion Companion, without changing any code. If they have an Exchange server, Equinox would work with the server at the back-end. Basically the mail is forwarded to another e-mail address to be converted to fit the format of whatever devices the enterprise is using. Therefore, installation is straight forward, explained Mr. Sriram.

Device Interface
MobileInfo - On the device side, do you have components that interface with different devices?

Equinox - A remote controller application runs on the laptop, PocketPC, and Palm Pilot, in contrast to the Blackberry pager and mobile phone which are server based.

Price & Availability
Equinox’s revenue is based on licensing fees. For example, end-user fees range from $5 to $10 per month, per end-user while the OMA fees range from $2 to $4. Version 1.2 is currently on the market. Version 1.5 is scheduled for release at end of December

MobileInfo - In terms of product development, where is Equinox headed?

Equinox - Equinox is currently exploring feature enhancements at the conversion side, such as how it handles zip files and Lotus documents, and WordPerfect. Besides Mail Companion and File Companion, the company is exploring a database companion as well as looking at how to handle data in different mobile devices. Over the long-term, we are looking to position ourselves on platforms to enable users to conduct mobile commerce, when it’s ready, according to Mr. Sriram.

MobileInfo Comments & Advisory: Equinox has addressed some of the unique needs of mobile-aware messaging. Therefore, their software is worth considering. We are glad to note that Equinox intends to provide transparent interfaces to fit into Microsoft or Lotus-centric messaging infrastructure.  This provides minimum risk to end user organizations.

Acknowledgement: MobileInfo.Com thanks Mr. Sri Ram, CEO of  Equinox.  For a fact sheet on Equinox, click here.


Related Resources:
> Afaria Solutions

 

 
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