MWC: Telstra to launch email service for Windows phones

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MWC: Telstra to launch email service for Windows phones

Telstra will launch an all-you-can-eat mobile e-mail service based on the Microsoft Exchange platform in May, timed with the release of a new Telstra-branded skin for Windows phones.

Telstra’s mobile e-mail service for Windows phones will be similar to Blackberry’s Enterprise Server (BES) or Individual Solution (BIS) – an all-you-can-eat package of mobile e-mail, calendaring and contacts for a fixed monthly cost.

The services will be available on a selection of phones using the Windows Mobile 6.1 operating system.

Telstra is yet to release pricing, but Ross Fielding, executive director of Telstra’s mobility products said the service will be “competitive” with existing mobile e-mail solutions.

Blackberry Individual Solution, if any guide, offers unlimited e-mail for $29.95 per month.

New UI
The release of a Windows-based mobile e-mail service will be timed with the launch of a new Telstra-branded graphic user interface (GUI) for Windows-based phones.

The new graphic user interface, developed over three months by Victorian developer Pointui, is aimed at ease-of-use.

“Microsoft-based devices haven’t always been the most usable devices,” Fielding said. “We have been talking to Microsoft about what we can do to create a User Interface that delivers what customers want.”

Like Apple’s iPhone, Telstra’s skin promotes relevant user information – such as today’s calendar appointments, weather or messages – to the home page. Telstra hopes this style of navigation will increase data use among its customers.

The new skin also places emphasis on accessing Telstra services.

With a single click to a Telstra icon, for example, users are given a tiled view of Telstra services such as Sensis Search and BigPond content.

But users will still be able to turn the skin off or customise the experience.

“We want to leverage what assets we have without restricting what users do,” Fielding said.

The user interface will first ship with two Windows Mobile 6.1 devices – on the Motorola A3100 in mid-April (on a $60 per month plan) and on the high-end Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 in early May (on a $150 per month plan).

The graphic user interface is in many ways a step ahead of Microsoft’s next generation operating system, Windows Mobile 6.5, which features a user interface very similar to what Telstra has already developed for 6.1 phones.

Fielding says the imminent release of Windows Mobile 6.5 will not replace the hard work Telstra has done building its own interface.

“Far from wasting time, we’ve found it a terrific exercise,” he said. “We’re wrapped with what Microsoft is doing with 6.5 - we kind of helped Microsoft head in this direction. The integration we’ve done is feeding into 6.5.”

In demonstrating the new skin, Telstra accidentally also let slip on another product under development – an App Store.

Fielding said Telstra has “learned a lot from Apple” as to how users wish to gain access to applications.

“To some degree we already have a Telstra App store, we’re just now taking the opportunity to bring those apps up to the front and make them easier to get to,” he said. “Whether we call it a Telstra App Store or whatever, watch this space. There is a little bit of work to around applications.”

“I’ll say no, we’re not launching a Telstra App Store, for now. Then if it comes out, you can be surprised.”

Brett Winterford reports live and exclusively from Mobile World Congress for iTnews.

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