Exchange Surcharge Could Hinder Droid With Businesses

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Droid was looking like quite the contender with its QWERTY keyboard, 5MP camera, replaceable battery, turn-by-turn GPS and MicroSD slot. Droid and its 854x480 3.7-inch screen promised customers a viable alternative to AT&T's swamped network and the Apple's draconian app policies. Why did it have to spoil a good thing by punishing its Microsoft Exchange users with an additional $15 fee?

Oh, sure, Verizon is accustomed to sticking it to its Blackberry customers, who for years have been paying an extra $15 over the $30 base data plan for the privilege of using a Blackberry Enterprise Server. Businesses who use a BES are already paying for server licensing and per-seat fees, so an added tax on the provider side isn't surprising. AT&T and T-mobile are also guilty of pinching an extra $15 from their Blackberry customers who use a BES. So it's not surprising that Blackberry customers switching to Droid might not have paid much attention to the extra fee.

However, Droid, with its "iDon't, Droid Does" advertising campaign, has the iPhone squarely in its crosshairs. The iPhone uses Microsoft's ActiveSync technology to connect to Exchange, bypassing the need for an extra server like Research in Motion's BES. This connectivity is inclusive with its $30 unlimited data plan. Droid also uses ActiveSync, so why does its data plan cost 50 percent more for the same functionality? Surely if Verizon is seeking to steal business customers from AT&T, it should make an attempt to be cost competitive.

Are there really extra overhead costs associated with pulling mail from a Microsoft server versus a Gmail server? Unlikely. It seems like just another ploy to nickel-and-dime customers who need to access to corporate mail servers.

Business owners are likely to pay attention to this discrepancy. Say you're looking to equip a mobile sales force of a dozen or more with an e-mail capable phone. If you're using Gmail, the iPhone and the Droid will cost you the same. If you rely on an Exchange server, the difference is thousands per year. Does Verizon think its customers won't notice?

Michael Scalisi is an IT manager based in Alameda, California.

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