In Pursuit of a Data Windfall

A new service targeting mobile phone use by small business and consumers
hopes to emulate the enterprise-oriented Research in Motion’s BlackBerry
mobile e-mail.

Berggi, led by the
founder of Turkey’s largest Internet service, has its eye on the untapped
U.S. mobile messaging sector. The company hopes to repeat RIM’s success in the consumer market, Berggi CEO Babur Ozden told internetnews.com.

Berggi lets owners of inexpensive mobile phones exchange e-mail and instant
messages using free messaging services from Google , Yahoo
, Microsoft and AOL.

The service, which has been available in
test markets this year, opens its $9.99 per month e-mail and
instant messaging service to the general public on Thanksgiving.

However, the new
mobile messaging service stiff-arms the usual carrier relationships,
preferring to deal directly with customers.

Because the Berggi service is billed to a customer’s mobile phone account,
the inexpensive messaging option won’t work with Verizon or
Sprint Nextel because of billing conflicts, according to
Ozden.

Customers download a Java applet, which Berggi described as “dead simple,
but elegant” to provide consumers with the mobile messaging experience
companies have only been able to deliver for large enterprises, according to
a statement.

Due to its reliance on Java (a Symbian version is in the works), Berggi is
incompatible with the Pocket PC. Berggi won’t work with the BlackBerry nor
Palm’s Treo.

Ozden said Berggi is not meant to be a cheap alternative to the BlackBerry
service.

While corporate mobile phone users need increased security and an
ability to handle attachments, this new mobile messaging service wants to
attract small business users and the average consumer. Subscribers can
cancel the service and delete the messaging client from their phones without
a penalty, according to the company.

The service works without the need for a data plan from a carrier, according
to Ozden. Instead, Berggi uses the phone’s data port. “You don’t need a data
plan. Establish your habit then decide whether you want a plan,” he said.

Ozden said Berggi will offer its service to a variety of companies to
include in a bundle with their own products. Possibilities could include
Internet companies, banks or even coffeehouses.

During tests in 2006 with an Internet brand, Berggi attracted around 100,000
users and collected nearly $1 million in revenue-sharing, Ozden said.

Analysts, however, aren’t convinced Berggi will be able to enter an already
crowded market without teaming with some of the top-tier wireless carriers.

Along with RIM, Visto,
Seven Networks and others are selling mobile messaging products aimed at
low-cost phones, according to Gartner’s Todd Kort.

Although one-third of consumers want e-mail service on their mobile phones,
Berggi has some drawbacks. Chief among them is a lack of carriers for
distribution and no large brand name for an ally, warned Charles Golvin of
Forrester Research.

While analyst Kitty Weldon of Current Analysis believes there is a market
for such a service among young mobile phone users, without a distribution
agreement with a major carrier, Berggi will be left only with regional
carriers.

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