A UK start-up is hoping to take on the might of BlackBerry and Microsoft Exchange with an ad-sponsored mobile push email service.
Blue Whale Systems was founded in 2007 by a team of engineers from companies including Microsoft, Nokia, Research In Motion, Symbian, Vodafone and T-Mobile.
The BlueWhaleMail service will initially be available for Nokia Series 60 and most of the current Sony Ericsson feature phones.
Blue Whale Systems is developing the application for other platforms such as Samsung and Windows Mobile devices, but declined to comment on when these may be available.
Users will need to install the application onto their mobile phone and configure it with their specific email addresses, something Blue Whale insists is a very simple task.
The service is free to use but includes a banner ad at the top of the message viewer.
"We think there are some great dedicated mobile email devices out there, but we're biased because half of us helped build one of them," said Michael Maguire, co-founder and chief technology officer at Blue Whale Systems.
"Unfortunately the rest of the world's 1.1 billion email users have phones with unusable, hard to configure in-built email that few people can be bothered to set up."
BlueWhaleMail can connect to a user's Facebook account, providing push status and news updates as well as allowing them to respond to and post responses.
"We are trying to make social networking as much a part of mobile life as text messaging," said Richard Seward, co-founder and chief executive at Blue Whale Systems.
"People who are unwilling to pay for or use a dedicated mobile email device still deserve a great mobile email service and that's exactly what BlueWhaleMail offers."
Research firm M:Metrics said that only 5.7 per cent of mobile owners in the UK, France, Italy, Spain and Germany use their handset for email.
BlueWhaleMail also works with web-based email services such as Yahoo Mail and Google Mail, but will not work with Hotmail as Microsoft does not yet freely support the required industry standards of either IMAP4 or POP3.
Blue Whale Systems is looking into extending to other social networks as well as other communication protocols such as instant messaging and RSS feeds.
"We wanted to deliver a great service without charging users. We didn't want trial periods or subscription fees, but we didn't want spam messages either," explained Seward.
"We believe that banner adverts at the top of the BlueWhaleMail message viewer provide an unobtrusive way to support the service."
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