RealTime IT News

Access Your Desktop Mobile Style

On-demand collaboration services vendor WebEx (QUOTE NASDAQ:WEBX> is rolling out a new version of PCNow, its remote-access application that lets users access their computer desktops from any Web-enabled handset.

The company is hoping to attract knowledge workers on the move, who represent a significant portion of cell phone users. A Gartner study released last week showed that cell phone sales rose by 21 percent in 2006 to almost 1 billion units worldwide.

Version 3.0 of PCNow provides a secure connection allowing users to access documents, desktop search, e-mail, contacts, calendars and even VoIP applications on their desktop PCs. The application also allows documents to be printed locally.

Online sessions are initiated using a call-back to a predefined telephone number for user verification and are password-protected; session traffic is secured with 128-bit secure socket layer (SSL) encryption.

The content of the desktop has been optimized for the smaller screen size of the handheld form factor, and the connection rides on the company's private Mediatone network, which uses a different protocol than the Internet's http protocol.

Jack Chawla, senior director of product management at WebEx, said the networking technology "makes it possible to reduce the amount of time it takes for the information to make a round trip."

Chawla said that this application gives WebEx a competitive advantage over market leader Citrix , whose GoToMyPC remote application only works from PC to PC.

"Our strategy is to be able to give you access to your information in a way that is optimized for your mobile devices. If PCs get smaller, we already have support for that," he told internetnews.com.

Forrester analyst Claire Schooley agreed that the new mobile support gives WebEx a competitive advantage, particularly for younger workers. "They don't even want to do e-mail; they want to IM and Skype and get information like that," she told internetnews.com.

But Schooley said that business users who want to keep constant tabs on their e-mail will have to keep using Blackberries, since WebEx still requires users to proactively check their e-mail rather than having it pushed to them.

She also noted that the handheld is a good way to only check information on a given document; it isn't configured for hard-core editing.

PCNow 3.0 is available today and costs $11.95 for access to two PCs and one handheld device.