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Nokia offers Microsoft e-mail on smartphones

Nokia is embedding Microsoft ActiveSync in its smartphones as it battles Research in Motion for corporate smartphone customers.

SAN FRANCISCO--Nokia took aim at smartphone rival Research in Motion Tuesday with plans to expand the number of devices that will automatically be capable of accessing Microsoft corporate e-mail.

Nokia N81

On the eve of the CTIA I.T. & Entertainment tradeshow here, Nokia announced it will embed Microsoft Exchange Activesync on all Nokia phones that use the S60 Symbian operating system. As a result, 43 different models of Nokia phones will have easy access to Microsoft corporate email. Nokia will also add the Microsoft Exchange support to all new N-Series and E-Series phones that hit the market in the future.

Until this announcement Nokia offered Microsoft email support as a download for only a handful of devices. But the feature wasn't well publicized, and it was somewhat difficult to download.

Now Microsoft's ActivSync software will be automatically available for 80 million of Nokia's already shipped devices, and it will be available as a standard feature on all new Nokia N-Series and E-Series phones. Having the software embedded on the phone or as an automatic software update makes setting up corporate email access on a Nokia phone so easy that most people can do it themselves without the help of their IT department, said Bill Plummer, vice president of sales and go-to-market for Nokia Americas.

The enhancement is a big deal, especially in the U.S., where Nokia has not made significant traction in the smartphone market. Instead, Research in Motion has dominated the smartphone category in the U.S. with its BlackBerry devices.

The integrated Microsoft email support will now make Nokia a more appealing choice for corporate users. But winning over corporate customers may still be difficult. Nokia rivals such as Palm and Motorola , already have ActiveSync available on their smartphones, and BlackBerry continues to beat these companies. Apple has also introduced Microsoft ActiveSync for its iPhone users.

What's more, most of Nokia's phones that will offer the embedded e-mail software are not sold through carriers in the U.S., which means they aren't subsidized. And with price tags in the range of $450 to $950, Nokia smartphones could be out of reach of some U.S. consumers, especially when all four of the major U.S. carriers offer subsidized BlackBerry's for around $100.