Carsten Brinkschulte: My business week

The chief executive of Synchronica, the mobile-device management firm, on email technology
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The Independent Online

If you spend any time in the City of London, you could come to the conclusion that mobile email is a mass market phenomenon. After all, doesn't everybody have a BlackBerry?

But as fantastic a job as RIM has done – and its achievement is remarkable – the BlackBerry has only scratched the surface of the potential of this market.

The 10 million users it has accumulated in five years are a fraction of the estimated three billion handsets in use worldwide. Most of these are not BlackBerry-style smartphones, but regular feature phones, at least half of which are email enabled to the SyncML industry standard.

And it is there where we anticipate the greatest growth in mobile email over the next five years, and in particular in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Latin America.

In the City, or indeed on Wall Street, the mobile phone is just one communications device, something for the airport lounge or discreet glances under the table over lunch.

But in emerging markets, which are characterised by a lack of copper wireline infrastructure as well as low penetration rates of personal computers, mobile communications are poised to become a critical element of society.

Network operators in those countries are ambitious, believing that mobile handsets can become not only the dominant communications tool for speech, but also for data – and they view email as an integral part of the package they will offer. A network chief executive in a country regarded as one of the world's poorest recently told me that his company's research suggested that as many as a quarter of its customers would be prepared to add email to their mix of services.

So UK companies looking to break into the mobile services market, but who see it tied up by one or two powerful companies, need to look further afield: the world awaits.

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