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Price, convenience to drive wireless messaging

Attendees at TechTarget's Enterprise Messaging Decisions conference say that BlackBerrys and other wireless messaging devices are only getting more popular, but security is still a concern.

CHICAGO -- Industry analysts and IT professionals at the TechTarget Enterprise Messaging Decisions conference last week predicted that the reduced cost and improved security would continue to drive the market for BlackBerrys and other wireless messaging devices.

Analysts said that, for the first time, these devices will be tightly integrated with companies' back-end messaging platforms, like Microsoft Exchange and IBM Lotus Domino.

"Very few people really use mobile devices that are interconnected with their messaging systems," said David Ferris, president of San Francisco-based messaging analysis firm Ferris Research. "But that is going to change in a big way."

Ferris said that the adoption of wireless messaging systems would be driven by less proprietary, less expensive devices and a new breed of better applications and services.

"Rather than use a proprietary device, you'll be able to run these services on lots of common devices, such as Pocket PCs and Palm devices," Ferris said. "And they'll use ordinary cellular phone networks."

Richard Santella, an Exchange administrator with Information Systems Support Inc., an IT services firm in Gaithersburg, Md., said his company is beta testing a wireless messaging system for fleet commanders in the U.S. Navy.

Overall, Santella explained, wireless messaging proposals are slow to take off at his company because of serious security considerations.

"When we mention wireless, our security folks really start cringing and breaking out in hives," he said. "Even in our corporate offices managers are still not embracing the technology."

Santella said that to prove a point about wireless security, a co-worker embarked on what he called "war driving." The co-worker drove around in a Jeep with a wireless-enabled laptop and mapped all the hotspots he was able to connect to along the way.

"He actually went eight miles from his house to work and didn't lose connectivity the whole time," said Santella, illustrating how many wireless networks aren't properly secured.

One conference attendee, an information services administrator for a global fragrance firm who did not want to be identified for this article, said that his company plans to roll out a BlackBerry-based messaging program for its board of directors and high level executives.

"The idea is that most of our executives are complaining about having to carry laptops around," he said. "They want one small thing that handles everything."

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The attendee said that two years ago, his company looked at BlackBerrys and decided not to make an investment because they didn't seem to work everywhere. But now, he said, considerable improvements have been made regarding connectivity.

"Now that [global use] is possible, there's more of a business case," he said.

Helen Duffy, a messaging manager with the Bank of Ireland in Dublin, said high-level executives at her company piloted BlackBerrys, but ultimately decided to postpone a large-scale investment in the technology.

"They loved it, but they couldn't justify the cost of it," Duffy said. "I say when it gets cheaper, it will probably get adopted quicker."

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