May 22, 2007

Funambol provides address book sync to EarthLink

Author: Nathan Willis

Open source software provider Funambol has signed a deal with US Internet service provider and mobile network operator EarthLink. EarthLink will use Funambol's synchronization software to provide address book sync to its mobile phone and email customers.

Funambol's sync software is open source, with both client and server components freely downloadable at Funambol's Web site. In addition to address book contacts, the Funambol server can synchronize calendar, to-do, and note information between any two SyncML-enabled devices, remotely manage device configuration, and provide "push" email.

The SyncML standard is defined by the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA), a vendor- and network-neutral standards body. OMA publishes separate specifications for data synchronization and device management.

Funambol's SyncML server runs on top of Apache Tomcat, and client-side plugins are available for devices such as iPods and handhelds running Windows Mobile that do not natively support SyncML. On top of its freely available open source code, Funambol offers a commercial "Carrier Edition" product that is certified for high availability and scalability.

Although Funambol's commercial customers include telecom carriers and service providers, Vice President of Marketing Hal Steger says EarthLink is the company's largest customer in North America to date. A company spokesperson describes the deal as demonstrating that open source can serve vertical markets just as well as "nuts and bolts" infrastructure.

According to EarthLink, Funambol sync software allows it to meet customer demand for platform-independent access to address book data. Achieving that goal is particularly intricate for EarthLink, whose subscriber base includes dial-up, broadband, and mobile service customers.

EarthLink is the parent company of device maker and mobile virtual network operator Helio. In addition to Helio's own branded devices, though, EarthLink mobile service supports phones from a range of other manufacturers, including Motorola, BlackBerry, Palm, and Samsung. Its DSL and dial-up Internet service supports both home and business customers of multiple operating systems.

Stephen Currie, EarthLink's director of product management, says the rollout will take place in two stages. Helio has already begun providing the Funambol sync service to mobile users. The desktop component will come later; EarthLink is developing its own email client, which it hopes to deploy before year's end.

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