In October 2007, the launch of the first Arabic Blackberry was announced in the United Arab Emirates. The device had Arabic language input and an Arabic interface. Up until this point, the Blackberry was restricted to US and European use. The new initiative to bring the Blackberry to the Middle East and Africa had begun. The UAE’s mobile phone provider telco Etisalat collaborated with the creators of the Blackberry, RIM (Research InMotion), to create the Arabic version of the e-mail smart phone. The device allows Arabic customers to compose Arabic e-mails, browse Arabic web sites, and input Arabic text into the PIM (personal information management) software applications. The device is fully integrated with IBM Lotus Domino, Microsoft Exchange, and Novell GroupWise servers. The Blackberry has brought about the buzz word “push e-mail” into the business world. The concept is actually very simple. It works on the principle that rather than pulling e-mails at intervals on a mobile handset, the technology actually allows the e-mails to be pushed. In other words, each and every e-mail is delivered instantaneously and individually to handsets. In the Middle East, the move towards a mobile workforce is gathering pace. Many businesses in the region want and need the flexibility of having their employees out in the field with the capacity of receiving e-mails and the ability to send them. Nokia’s head of enterprise solutions in the Near and Middle East, Joe Devassey, explained: “Do (the business) have a mobility strategy? No. A lot is happening accidentally. It is not as if the IT managers in most companies in the Middle East actually have a plan like they do for installing networks or firewalls. It is happening more randomly, but there is definitely a lot of interest there from governments, banks, and the hospitality industry across all the verticals really.” Rather than the handset manufacturers or service providers trying to create a demand for the product, it has been the enterprise themselves that have been driving the conversation to push e-mails, in fact, some employees have been buying their own handsets to make their job easier, to match their mobile roles, and to ensure they are instantly contactable wherever they are based. This is confirmed by Harout Bedrossian, Motorola’s regional sales manager for the Middle East. “The funny thing is that we have also seen individuals seen individual within the enterprises who have shown demand and started adopting devices even though their own companies and management did not show any interest in the device. They know about the brands and about the technology and when it enters the region, they do not wait for their companies. They just go out and buy the handsets.” At present, the one thing holding the widespread adoption of the technology back is other businesses in the supply chain and those who are wither unwilling or unable to adopt the technology. Some simply do not understand its value, while others are unaware of the emerging technological benefits of the system. In order for any new technology to reach its potential, all of those in a supply chain need to be using the same technology. The way, the needs of the customer can be paramount and can drive the day-to-day use of the technology. Husni El Assi, the general manager of Sony Ericsson Middle East, explained the difficulties: “One of the main challenges is the lack of awareness in the technology itself and its benefits. We have an ongoing educational program for our distributors and retailers that is how we update our business partners on the latest technologies available in the mobile communications industry. In addition to that, we have our merchandising team which is in regular contact with the trade and helps to educate and inform the retailers on a regular basis. One of the major drivers in the adoption of push e-mails in the Middle East has been the fact that the handset vendors, the network...
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