Open source e-mail lands on commodity mobiles

J2ME client for phones nearing release

E-mail and groupware will take another step towards ubiquity this month when open source mobile software developer Funambol will release client software for Motorola and Nokia handsets.

Funambol's J2ME client was previewed at the 3GSM conference and expo in February and while no release date has been announced, Hal Steger, the company's vice president of marketing told Computerworld a beta is expected "within the month".

Funambol's open source J2ME framework for developing mobile apps is based on the SyncML standard so is compatible with all phones enabled with SyncML; however, the first J2ME client will run on the Motorola Razr family of devices and the Nokia Series 60 devices.

The J2ME client will have standard e-mail functionality, including read, compose, forward, delete, add sender to address book, and the ability to browse links in messages. Synchronizing contacts and the online calendar is also a feature.

"A cool feature is that it also syncs all the user's e-mail addresses from the portal with the e-mail client," Steger said. "So, the first time a user composes e-mail, he or she will see a list of their contacts' e-mail address to select from. This is a big deal in mobile [devices] because typing [in] e-mail addresses is a pain."

Made famous by proprietary solutions like BlackBerry and Motorola's Good, the client will also support push e-mail.

Steger said the client works with the Funambol portal and its open source, Java-based SyncML server but not with other servers, "unless someone takes the code and makes it do so, which they certainly could do as an open source project".

Funambol CEO Fabrizio Capobianco has high aspirations for open source mobile software, and believes the market for consumer and enterprise mobile e-mail remains untapped.

The company claims its mobile open source software is supported by 10,000 developers in 200 countries.

Funambol is also working with the OpenMoko platform for mobile phones to wirelessly synchronize applications and content, including PIM, e-mail, photos, videos, ringtones, and music.

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Rodney Gedda

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