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Interviews With Mobile Computing Vendors
- Synchrologic -

MobileInfo.com Interviews Bill Jones - Synchrologic’s V.P. of Product Management!

Synchrologic offers asset management and synchronization solutions for mobile devices for the enterprise. Since mobile asset management and synchronized information are becoming important issues of tomorrow, MobileInfo.Com interviewed Bill Jones, V.P. of Product Management at Synchrologic during early February 2001 to gain some insight into this topic. Here is the interview in our style - point form.

Question #1.
Please give us a 5-minute introduction to Synchrologic’s mission and its vision of the future, giving us highlights of your progress during the past two years of implementing this mission. Are you essentially on track from your inception or has the economic climate slowed your progress?

Answer:

  • The company was founded in 1995 and has consistently focused on the enterprise customer in its space. We’ve been in the marketplace a long time and have been successful selling to medium to large corporations.
  • In the beginning, our mission was to provide synchronization of CRM data systems, management installation, file management, etc. Now, Synchrologic has become a broad provider of applications infrastructure within one framework across a variety of devices, allowing flexible manageability and simple user interface.
  • The device landscape has changed. Three years ago, the only mobile computing device was the laptop. Now, we see the emergence and success of the palm as an enterprise device. Since, mobile phone carriers worked out favorable digital pricing, the pace has grown rapidly.
  • Synchrologic is on track for our growth. Today, we are rapidly growing. We now have over 150 corporate customers ranging from Cisco, Philip Morris, Fedex, Nintendo, and Citibank - all blue chip customers!

Question #2.
The wireless and mobile computing market is quite large. It also consists of a number of companies in diverse fields of IT and networking fields. It touches on almost all aspects of business endeavor – front-end customer service, back-end application integration, server application development, wireless infrastructure, networking and systems management. Please describe your core competency and services – starting with your short-term goals and how will these goals evolve into your long-term vision.

Answer:

  • Our core competency is providing robust synchronization technology and asset management in terms of software distribution, e-mail synchronization, etc.
  • Our differentiation is in our depth and breadth in providing strategic solutions to enterprise customers, not tactical and point solutions for today’s requirements only.
  • We have invested over 130 man-years of effort into the development of our products. There are no simple and pat answers in this area.

Question #3.
Can you paint two or three futuristic scenarios utilizing your core technology but integrated with customer applications?

Answer:

  • Our software solutions can be adapted to a variety of vertical industries to access any enterprise data, anywhere, on a number of mobile devices. We can deliver this data to multiple device form factors.
  • Any mobile user can get access to his/her e-mail anywhere. At the same time, IT staff can manage the mobile environment and know what is going on in the field.
  • We provide the primary building blocks for this type of functionality for various devices including PCs, which remain essentially the ‘work horses’. We don’t see Palm Pilots replacing PC functions - the two are complimentary.
  • At present we are engaged in complimentary partnering with wireless middleware vendors.

Question #4.
How big is this market? Who are the four major players? How many user seats do you claim to have? What is Synchrologic’s market share?

Answer:

  • This is an absolutely enormous market, with hundreds of thousands of user seats. No studies are available for the size of this market. We know that synchronization and asset management are generic to all computing.
  • While Afaria and Sybase provide similar functionality in this space, they provide file synchronization only. Extended Systems and IBM relationship is based on two software companies, rather than "vendor to an enterprise customer" relationship.

Question #5.
What sets Synchrologic apart in the market – key differentiates? Imagine that you are pitching to a team of experienced consultants advising a client on selecting asset management and application development software. Can you support these claims as demonstrated in competitive situations?

Answer:

  • We distinguish our solution on the basis of the variety of devices that we support. Besides handheld devices, we manage PCs effectively and these are the workhorses in this market.
  • Depth of our solution is significant.
  • Our enterprise focus is unique.
  • Our solution is scaleable, practical and manageable.

Question #6.
Synchronization of personal and business information at all times across all devices that one may use is a difficult task. A professional may work on a desktop, laptop and handheld device at different times. Your software attempts to address this important need. Nobody questions the requirement. Yet adoption is relatively slow. Why?

Answer:

The reason the adoption has been slow is because it is a young market. Adoption of laptop computers has been very high in the past. For handheld devices, this year (2001) may be a big year for Mobile Computing vendors. Pocket PC adoption has also picked up greatly. Synchrologic provides a good solution to keep costs down.

Question #7.
Turning our attention to systems management – asset management (hardware, operating software applications and database versions updated at all times) is still another problem that you address. If IDC research states that it costs 2500 per year per mobile device, why are we unable to sell millions of seats?

Answer:

The support cost is neither an inhibitor, nor a motivator. Customers realize what it costs. Our customers are more interested in whether or not we can make them more productive in the field. Support cost is not a primary concern.

Question #8.
Is enterprise market in asset management bigger than the consumer and professional market (ReadySyncGo) in your space?

Answer:

Our intent is not to focus on the consumer market. The focus of our ReadySyncGo service was to provide a service to the professionals and IT consultants in the Fortune 500 companies so that they can move their IT departments to implement our solution across the enterprise.

Question #9.
Your strategy versus your competition was distinctly different – you went after the enterprise first and then after the consumer and the professional market. Why did you do that?

Answer:

Our business model will lead to profitability faster. PIM synchronization is essentially a personal function, not an enterprise function. Our strategy was implemented with the intent to migrate a professional solution to strategic enterprise solution.

 

Question # 10.
Are you trying to become a Wireless ASP or you will let the customer manage its own infrastructure?

Answer:

Presently, our focus is on the enterprise licensing of our products. While wireless ASP implementation by Synchrologic is not our core strategy, we would offer this as an option to assist our customers. We may change our strategy in future.

Question #11.
Your competition says that it has a good war chest in terms of funding. How do you stand in terms of third round funding and on your way to becoming self-funding? When do you expect to become profitable?

Answer:

We received 22 million – in our second round of VC funding in August 2000. We have a good revenue stream. Presently we are investing in our future, so that we can go public.

Question #13.
Wireless & mobile computing market is hot right now. Every day new forecasts come in from respectable market research companies and indicate even greater numbers for wireless data. Yet, most of these forecasts have not come true in the past except for the number of cellular phones sold in Europe and Japan. Do you think these forecasts are going to come through even when we had an egg on our face with lots of dot com startups and dismal track record of forecasts including those from established market research companies. If our caution is unwarranted, what is so different in the wireless and mobile market that history won’t be repeated?

Answer:

Mobile computing and the wireless market are growing in a big way. We are very optimistic. Synchrologic is growing with the market. Enterprise is key to our strategy.

Question #14.
Finally, our industry has more startups than established companies. There is an inherent danger in picking the right startup for a lasting and reliable relationship. What advice can you give to our subscribers and your customers while selecting their suppliers of core technologies?

Answer: The following factors should be considered:

  • There is no substitute for marketing experience. Therefore, the length of time the company has been in business is important. Meaning that the company has been in the market long enough to get feedback of on their applications.
  • That the company has staying power.
  • That the vendor that has strategic solutions to your problems, not sexy point solutions.
  • That the vendor has good customer references.

MobileInfo Comments and Advisory:
Synchrologic is a young emerging company based in Atlanta, Georgia that recently has become an important player in the mobile asset management and synchronization space. One of the major challenges facing mobile workers today is to be able to synchronize information, wherever they are, at any time. Synchrologic’s iMobile Suite product family provides an enterprise-focused and server-based solution for deploying applications, email, files and data to a broad variety of mobile devices (Palm® handhelds, Pocket PCs, and PCs/laptops) which connect to enterprise networks via wired and wireless networks, including, of course, the Internet. In a future release, iMobile Suite intends to support smart phones based on EPOCTM, and RIM® BlackberryTM wireless e-mail pagers. Synchrologic has been successful in marketing to an impressive list of Fortune 500 enterprises such as Cisco, Fedex, 3M, City Bank, Hertz, Maersk, etc. Synchrologic’s success in this market demonstrates a balanced strategy of engineering a relatively good product and supporting it with a sound marketing plan. If we were to draw an analogy, Synchrologic is trying to be more like IBM than like Sun.

In January 2001, Synchrologic introduced ReadySyncGo service for mobile business professionals who want to stay synchronized with their personal and business data maintained on the Internet. This strategy may have appeared as an attempt to catch up with one of its competitors FusionOne who embarked on an aggressive advertising and marketing campaign to go after the consumer market. Our understanding is that Synchrologic has a different motivation for offering ReadySyncGo service than FusionOne had for its consumer service. Synchrologic is focused substantially on the enterprise sector. Their ReadySyncGo product is a means to the same end, across those customers whose IT management has not been able to respond to the needs of their mobile professionals by implementing in-house solutions. It is Synchrologic’s hope that this cultivation of customer relationship at a ‘grass roots’ level will build goodwill and familiarity among users. This will lead to the selection of a Synchrologic solution at an appropriate time in the future. Based on our understanding of IT mentality, we think that this is a smart move.

On the other hand, we find that the consumer market is very temperamental, involving large marketing expense and requiring significant customer support. FusionOne expects portals and ISPs to handle that support. However, we think that in the short term, the enterprise B2B market will bear fruit more quickly. In the long run, the consumer market will be very large but we predict that the break-even point is going to be much later. Therefore, you will need a lot of cash to hang in there until you become profitable.

From a broader scheme of mobile computing space and future direction, we feel that vendors such as Synchrologic must widen their product scope and become important component vendors on their own accord. Otherwise, they will be at the mercy of larger systems integrators like IBM, EDS, Oracle, Computer Science, and big five accounting firms. In future, these companies will have greater influence in selecting or recommending infrastructure components. It is important, therefore, for Synchrologic to forge strategic relationships with those systems integrators who do not have a product representation in this space. IBM does have its own preferred solutions, which offer better integration with its own DBMSs like DB2, messaging platforms like MQSeries and systems management software like Tivoli. So does Oracle. Synchrologic must also aggressively market its products to wireless ASPs because small to medium sized customers will be influenced, to a large degree, by what these portals offer.

Notwithstanding these comments, we would recommend to independent-minded enterprises to evaluate Synchrologic’s iMobile Suite as a viable product in this space. We do not endorse a single product in any space, but iMobile Suite does make the grade on our ‘short list’.

Acknowledgement: 
MobileInfo.Com thanks Bill Jones, VP of Synchrologic's Product Management for this interview.

For more information on Synchrologic solutions on this website, click here.  To go to vendor site, click here.

All comments in this interview are the property of MobileInfo.Com website. They may not be reproduced without written permission from us.


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