With Fabrizio Capobianco, CEO of Funambol.
Question: Do you have an opinion as to the future of BlackBerry?
Capobianco: It appears that RIM will walk away from its patent litigation with only a few cuts and bruises and will likely begin to look at other ways to increase revenue (trying to move beyond e-mail). However, the future of mobile e-mail is what is most interesting to me and the mass market — e-mail is the app everyone needs now. The mobile e-mail space is opening up, and there are some traditional options with proprietary solutions such as Good, Visto, Microsoft and others; however, the only open source solution for mobile e-mail is Funambol. Open source software is the disruptive and enabling technology that will deliver mobile e-mail to nearly every handset — in the enterprise and on personal low-cost phones.
Question: Why is an open source product appropriate for the mobile e-mail market at this point? What benefits does open source offer other than the obvious cost reductions?
Capobianco: Open source software and open standards drive ubiquity — very rapid adoption on a global scale. Having open source mobile e-mail will foster innovation and momentum in all parts of the mobile market: new devices, better services, broader compatibility, and yes, lower costs that drive high usage. The mobile device marketplace is unique in its mass proliferation of device types — hundreds of models per year, with total sales of over 800 million units. Existing proprietary mobile e-mail solutions only scratch the surface, because of high costs and limited device compatibility. With limited capabilities and reach, RIM, Microsoft and others are limited to a market with less than 75 million phones. In contrast, Funambol is compatible with more than 500 million phones today, a number that will double by year-end 2006.
Question: What is the next step for the mobile e-mail market, in your estimation?
Capobianco: Open source software is the next natural step for this market. It will do for mobility what it did for the explosion of the Internet. The analogy is a close one: Very low costs drive mass adoption; mass adoption creates network effects and virtuous cycles that increase the value and usage of mobile devices. Up to now, the proprietary mobile software has been analogous to a tax on the Internet. Open source proliferates software and takes the incremental cost of additional use to zero. This means big economic benefits for users, and sets the stage for new business models (just as the Internet did).