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Sprint, Airframe help mobile CRM take off

Sprint PCS has inked a deal with Airframe to make its hosted CRM software available to customers using Sprint's wireless Internet access service. An analyst says that by making mobile connectivity more useful, the move could help Sprint court business users.

Sprint PCS Group has partnered with a new CRM software services company to offer its users wireless access to hosted applications.

Airframe Business Software Inc., a San Diego-based software service provider, will make its applications suite available at the end of the month. It offers 24 applications for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), including customer relationship management (CRM) and employee relationship management, as well as asset and facilities management software.

Airframe's applications are Web-based, so users can access hosted data from a Web browser. With this approach, IT departments don't need to manage as much software for mobile workers, meaning the device -- and even the network connection -- is irrelevant, said Tom Harris, vice president of business development for Airframe.

"Our applications are written so that performance is very good over wireless networks," Harris said.

While users can access data from any device that supports a browser, Airframe has not yet optimized the data for viewing on handheld devices and their smaller screens. Plans to do so are in the works, Harris said, but for now, data is best viewed on a laptop.

Though Airframe debuted its product at the beginning of the month, it has already announced a partnership with Sprint PCS. The carrier will offer Airframe's software services to customers using its wireless modem card, and Airframe will sell Sprint's services to its customers.

Chris Fernandez is director of business sales for Conshohocken, Pa.-based UbiquiTel Inc., which owns and operates Sprint's network in 11 states. He said that Airframe's software suite adds value to Sprint's wireless service.

While the partnership with Sprint gives Airframe some exposure and a wider network of sales contacts, the deal may actually be more advantageous for Sprint, said Chris Selland, managing director of Reservoir Partners, a Cambridge, Mass.-based consulting firm.

While Sprint has had its high-speed network in place, there are not a lot of business applications built for it today, he said. "Sprint is spending a lot of money advertising its high-speed data network, but without applications to use on it, then who cares?" Selland said.

Applications such as Airframe's can help Sprint target the business market, as well as make wireless connectivity more valuable to businesses, Selland said.

Enabling mobile CRM can also help differentiate Airframe from some of its competitors. While the CRM software market is crowded, there are fewer competitors in the hosted CRM market. And, of those vendors, few are aggressively pursuing mobility, Selland said.

Airframe's applications are available for $95 per user per month for one or all of the applications.

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