Once the preserve of the business elite, wireless e-mail is undergoing a democratisation process that will bring it to the masses, according to Gartner. Not only is wireless e-mail spreading ever-wider across the enterprise but consumers will increasingly access their email on mobile devices.
There are currently fewer than 20-million business users of wireless e-mail worldwide, representing just 2% of all e-mail accounts. Analysts predict that the progressive availability of products and services will allow 350 million business and consumer users access to wireless e-mail by 2010, meaning that 20% of all e-mail accounts will be wireless enabled. Gartner expects wireless email to reach commodity status by 2012.
As consumer technologies continue to infiltrate the enterprise, as a result of IT consumerisation, a growing number of employees will have the ability to access corporate email and other applications from personal devices.
Meanwhile, a reverse-consumerisation trend is creating a new demand for mobile email outside the enterprise boundaries, from prosumers (professional consumers) and consumers. Traditional business e-mail centric devices are transforming into personal devices that span both professional and consumer life.
"Over the next three years wireless e-mail will become increasingly popular with both businesses and consumers," says Monica Basso, research vice-president at Gartner.
Basso says that growth in the consumer market will be fuelled by the increasing availability of wireless e-mail support both in devices and from service providers as well as by improved usability. Corporate use will also rise as enterprises come under increased pressure to provide real-time communications for their expanding mobile workforce.
"By 2012, wireless e-mail products will be fully interoperable, commoditised and have standard features. They will be shipping in larger volumes at greatly reduced prices."
A longer-term trend that will accompany wireless e-mail adoption is convergence. According to Basso, many users are frustrated with the volume of communications tools they have to deal with and these technologies will eventually converge into a single, technology-transparent and presence enabled messaging style.
"Convergence will happen on the client side, hiding technology complexity from users and allowing them to focus on messaging content. By 2017, wireless e-mail will be fully integrated with other messaging tools into personal, converged communications. Companies like Microsoft, IBM, Nokia and RIM are already taking some steps in this direction," she says.
While Gartner sees consumerisation of IT as the key trend influencing the rise in popularity of wireless e-mail both inside and outside of the enterprise, there are a number of other trends and drivers influencing the phenomenon:
* Changing market dynamics Simpler, easier to use and less-expensive wireless email bundles are increasingly available to the consumer and careful planning can also result in cost-effective enterprise deployments.
* Technology enhancements A wide array of new e-mail-centric mobile devices, mobile service support for Exchange 2007 and the growing range of white label platforms available for mobile operators and service providers are all driving the adoption of wireless-e-mail.
* Evolving needs of user organisations, business users and consumers Balancing security and the manageability risk of wireless e-mail against the rewards mobile workers afford enterprises is a key challenge.
* Emerging and expanding service requirements – Different workers have different profiles and different technological needs. There is no one-size fits all solution and increasingly a combination of different wireless e-mail products is required.
* The rise of the Digital Native - New-generation IT users will prefer web-based e-mail services to traditional corporate systems and will prefer to access e-mail on their personal multimedia "buddy" rather than an e-mail centric business devices.
Gartner predicts that the increasing convergence of corporate and consumer technologies is leaving many user organisations exposed to increased security risks.
"Today wireless e-mail is spreading across the enterprise and if not supported by the IT organisation, individuals will find their own ways to access work e-mail on personal devices with significant security implications," says Basso.
She advises organisations to accept the consumerisation and commoditisation of mobility products and evaluate the impact of wireless e-mail on the IT organisation, investments and deployments when planning a wireless e-mail strategy.
Basso also underlines the importance of evaluating employee preferences and expectations in terms of devices, applications and services when planning for wireless e-mail deployments and advised organisations to provide a range of corporate options, as well as selective support to personal devices or services.