The user's perspective
The typical user of Sprint's PCS Business Connection service probably carries a phone with a numeric keypad and a small monochrome dot-matrix display. To read e-mail, view contact information, or check an appointment, the user first launches the phone's WAP browser. The contents of the phone's WAP home page are set by the operator, so when PCS Business Connection is available, it appears as a home page option.
If a device hasn't previously made a Business Connection link, the Seven software authenticates the user. It then creates an AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) encryption key that is known only to the System Seven software and the device. AES is used on all data; at no point in its transmission is a message unprotected.
If the service is configured for it, a new incoming e-mail will trigger an SMS (short message service) alert to a user's device. An SMS alert is generally received within a few seconds of sending. On ordinary phones, the alert will instruct the user to use WAP to pick up her new e-mail. On Palm-enabled phones, users have the option of running Seven's rich client. A Handspring Treo 300 with Sprint's PCS Business Connection receives new messages as soon as they hit the server. Seven's Handspring client intercepts the SMS alerts and automatically grabs the incoming mail. Seven plans to offer similar clients for other devices. Seven alluded to Pocket PC, Symbian, and J2ME (Java 2 Micro Edition, a feature of many smart phones) versions of the rich client, saying that Seven's design makes it easy to adapt to new platforms.
Whether the user makes use of the WAP interface or the rich client, communication with the subscribing company's back-end servers takes place in real time. When a user deletes a message from his phone, it is immediately deleted from that user's Notes or Exchange mailbox. There is no intermediate cache, so all devices stay in sync with collaboration servers as long as they're on the air.
Frequent users will undoubtedly prefer Seven's rich client to the WAP interface. Cellular data networks impose lengthy round-trip delays, and depending on the strength of the signal, disconnections, refused connections, and lost data may be common. RIM masks these limitations with its custom client software. An interactive WAP session with a remote server makes the shortcomings of cellular data networks painfully clear. It's also not much fun to read long text messages on a tiny screen. Devices such as the Handspring Treo have larger, more readable displays, but like the BlackBerry, the Treo costs far more than a basic digital cell phone.
Operators will address problems with cellular data networks as they become more popular (and therefore more profitable). Device manufacturers are already building larger, sharper, higher-resolution displays into phones. Even though adoption in the