Visto Expands Push E-Mail to Social Sites

Mobile e-mail vendor Visto can now push updates from popular social-networking sites to phone users.

With Visto Mobile 6, the latest version of its push e-mail service, the company has integrated both social networking and photo sharing into its platform. It's one of a handful of advances for both enterprise workers and consumers in the new version, unveiled on the eve of the CTIA Wireless IT & Entertainment conference beginning Tuesday. Mobile operators can buy the software today and could start offering services to their subscribers by year's end, according to Visto.

Visto has long been a player in push e-mail and one of the most prominent independent rivals to Research In Motion, whose BlackBerry platform became almost synonymous with e-mail delivered immediately to mobile phones. Being able to send and receive e-mail without delay, and having the latest messages available whenever you go into the e-mail application, is the key advantage of push e-mail.

Now mobile users will be able to see news updates from their contacts on Facebook and MySpace, and notification of their latest photo posts on Flickr and Photobucket. Working with individual mobile operators, Visto will add other sites that are appropriate to particular markets, said Doug Brackbill, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Visto.

E-mail messages and social-networking updates are all accessible from the same application and can be viewed in lists by contact name, events (in reverse chronological order) and type of message. Those views give summaries or notifications, and users can click through to see the full items, Brackbill said. SMS (short message service) and instant messaging also are available from within the interface.

The user is notified of all types of new content on the photo and social-networking sites, including status updates, photos, Wall posts, and personal and public messages. Using the same software, users also can post their own photos and social-networking updates from the phone.

To guard against message overflow, users can filter their contact lists for these updates to just their closest friends. Visto expects that list to include a few dozen people, but the size is unlimited.

Like earlier versions, Visto Mobile 6 also includes push e-mail from Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Notes and many Web-based and ISP (Internet service provider) services. But the new version adds a way for workers to get into Exchange e-mail without the IT department having to add special software behind the firewall, Brackbill said. This Exchange Direct Access (EDA) service takes advantage of the Outlook Web Access tool that many enterprises use to give employees access to their e-mail and other Outlook resources from the Web. With EDA, in many cases employees who buy their own phones from a carrier's store will be able to start using Outlook as soon as they get on the Internet, he said.

Also with the new release, Visto is introducing an extended address book that resides on the carrier's network. That list can include a wide range of contacts beyond those on the phone's standard address book, and users can populate it by adding in contacts from Web-based e-mail and other sources, Brackbill said.

Through carriers, Visto makes its software available on Apple iPhones, Symbian Series 60 smart phones, Windows Mobile devices and a growing number of less-expensive phones, Brackbill said.

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