In this second part of his interview (part 1 here), Daniel Méndez, co-founder of mobile e-mail company Visto, compared his company with other players - RIM, Microsoft, Seven and Good Technology. Today, he explains where the market for mobile e-mail is going in future.
There have been technology arguments, such as push versus pull. Is that still a live issue?
That's something that has been settled. In today's world, information is valuable. You can use a pull mechanism, to do "fake push," but information has to be delivered to the end user immediately - that's what matters.
Visto's system is very fast. I find it astonishing. Sometimes I connect via VPN to my Exchange server, and I get messages on my phone before I see them on screen on laptop. Five seconds later I see it on my laptop.
It's a source of great pride. What is our secret sauce? I do know but it's not relevant. The important part is, it works immediately. That is the fantastic user experience we want to push out to users round the world.
How about extending the systems supported, such as to Linux?
Like every other company on the face of the earth, we have limited resources. What we have built is an infrastructure that allows for the safe and secure synchronisation of data types between a remote terminal and the source of the data. We can add different types of e-mail server, calendar server etc to that. New clients, new data type, these are things that can be added.
In future, the mobile user interface will have to integrate different things, such as IM, text messages and e-mail. How big an issue will this be?
Each thing is slightly different. In Windows Mobile, they have an interesting approach to this, which I happen to like. They have the same inbox for text messaging, corporate e-mail, personal e-mail, and text messages.
Visto integrates into that very well. With our latest client, we can support simultaneous push to the same client of e-mail from Google, Yahoo and so on. That integration of differnet kinds of e-mail, I find to be very useful and very convenient.
So integration of e-mail, IM and other communication is really best left up to the client?
Yes, our focus is on getting the data there. The source of the data is the server in the enterprise or elsewhere, and the client; we integrate with those two pieces. With that said, oftentimes we encournter a client that does not have the functionality we require, then we build a client on that particular device.
We try to work with existing user interfaces, on the theory that it's much better user experience. We don't force the user to learn a new UI. That's another point of differentiation with others, Good Technology builds a UI, that's why they only support a handful of devices. We support a hundred.
Good would say they can provide a better user experience by controlling the user interface. The closed system may work well in the beginnings of the market, but history has proven time and time again that it is specialisation that will win.
What about management of mobile devices? Good includes mobile management and mobile security specialists. Should mobile e-mail include these things, or is it - like the user interface - best left to other specialists?
We have some management capabilities, and we will be adding more as we find they are required by our operator partners and by end users. I can't get into the specifics right now.
What is the future direction of your product?
We have developed a platform that allows communications in a safe and secure manner, and we will continue to expand this by supporting more devices and more data types, beyond e-mail and into calendar, and contacts and other types.
The product is ever growing. Right now, as the pieces come together, when you are in a market that is breaking away from closed systems, it is important how you maintain cohesiveness and consistent use across different pieces. All these things are areas we are looking at.
Giving the best user experience is our main focus.
Critics of Visto suggest that the company is more focussed on spending resources on legal battles than research and development. How valid is this?
The vast majority of our resources go into R&D. Overall, Visto has raised $200 million, and the bulk of it has gone into R&D. In Visto, 398 of our 400 people are involved in development; only 2 of us are working on the patent side in Visto.
We have among our customers, the largest operator in the world. Vodafone went through a stringent process, with every other competitor. They didn't choose us for our patents, they chose us on the strength of our products.
We are the same size and capitalisation as Good and Seven, and much smaller than RIM or Microsoft.
Anything else you want to put across?
There's one thing I'd like to convey. These patents that Visto has, these are not ones we bought, or found lying in street. I personally worked on them ten years ago in a garage in Silicon Valley.
They were written at a time when most people thought we were just barking up the wrong tree. These are things we worked on very hard, that we developed in-house, and we believe they are fundamental to what we are doing today, and to this emerging market.
We feel very proud of the things we invented. And we believe this is the essence of capitalism and the protection of property rights: we came up with something and we want it to be acknowledged.