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Ewan 28-12-2004 10:46 AM

Push email - The Ultimate Oxymoron?
After two years of marketing hype, Steve Litchfield still finds himself struggling to understand the appeal of push email. Surely the whole concept of email (or indeed mail) is that it's a non-real time medium, to be read at the recipient's convenience? Read on...

Let's see if I've got this straight. With push email, central servers collect email from your standard IMAP4 or POP3 mailboxes, 'pushing' new emails out to your smartphone using standard SMS and/or Internet protocols, with audible alerts sounding, lights flashing or icons winking to tell you that you've got a new email that needs reading. So you're going about your business and end up being distracted every few minutes either by something new arriving or by wondering whether something has arrived since you last looked. And somehow, to achieve this state of affairs, vendors seem to be falling over themselves to sell push email solutions, both hardware and software.

Contrast this to the way God intended email to work. At a time of your convenience, in a break from something else, you check what's arrived in your mailbox since the last time you checked. Which may be 10 minutes, 1 hour or 10 hours, depending on how you run your life. The point is that the checking and reading of email happens without interrupting what you're busy doing. If something's really urgent and people want to get your immediate attention, they're going to phone you anyway, rather than risk their communication at the whims of a relay of mail servers.

I have a friend who's been proudly proclaiming how pleased he is now that he's got push email and that he loves the way a little red light flashes on his Blackberry whenever a new email arrives. Which is rather sad, really. Man should be master of the machine, rather than having his entire life and timetable determined by incoming missives, the vast majority of which could easily be fielded a few minutes later, without any discernable detriment to your life and work.

Perhaps you like the idea of having email waiting for you without having to wait while it's collected? Look in your smartphone/mail software manual, there's a good chance your mail app can collect email automatically at regular intervals.

Does all this sound a little one-sided? Why not comment below and have your say?

Steve Litchfield

langdona 28-12-2004 10:57 AM

It may sound one sided but I agree with it 100% ;)

I want to check for new mail as and when I want to.

I dont want push email and I certainly wont pay for it.

SwitchBlade 28-12-2004 11:42 AM

When Orange started offering SMS alerts to let me know e-mail has arrived, I jumped on the bandwagon, at the time I recieved a fair amount of e-mail and some of it was "important" enough for me to want to know that it's arrived. This service only told me who mailed and the subject and cost me nothing. I then had the option of dial up with my 9210 to collect the mail, grab a nearby PC and check my webmail or wait till I got home to PoP3 it. Unfortunately with the world of spam that makes it's way to inboxes daily this has now become more of a hinderance service than anything else somedays with almost 100 spams arriving. Why anyone would want the e-mail directed to their device now is beyond me, I'm glad that the service I use is not available to transfer to my new number (I can't even disable it on my old one, all record of it has vanished).

I'll either wait until I get round to it, or if it's really important I can either be called or a simple text saying "check your mail, it's too big to text" is enough.

Sands 28-12-2004 03:53 PM

doesn't make any sense
This post does not make any sense to me. I think push email is more logical than pulling emails at leisure.. At my leisure I do not want to spend time in pulling emails.. rather, I would spend that time in reading those. I carry Blackberry and find it convinient and it does not force me to read every email I received then and there. I can do whatever I want assured that I won't be missing any mails and I can read them whenever want to... So.. Push e-mail is the thing for me atleast. I also have PPC device which i use it with IBM websphere for my emails and other applications.. but I love that device more fore its richness and I find it very inconvinient to pull emails ... and specially very frustrating when you keep trying for more than once to pull all your emails..

slitchfield 28-12-2004 08:14 PM


Originally Posted by Sands
This post does not make any sense to me. I think push email is more logical than pulling emails at leisure.. At my leisure I do not want to spend time in pulling emails.. rather, I would spend that time in reading those. I carry Blackberry and find it convinient and it does not force me to read every email I received then and there.

Fair point. For those with push already installed and working, with a non-intrusive alert system, you'll save a bit of time every day.

What I was objecting to was the way marketeers are trying to kid us that the old way of email is not much cop and that we all should really have push email instead, buying into their expensive software systems....

Steve Litchfield

TANKERx 29-12-2004 12:42 AM

I agree with the original post 110%

Pulling E-Mail is the last bit of common sense in IT (or one of the last bits). I don;t want to postman to come into my bedroom and wake me up when he delivers my mail, so I don't want to be interrupted by e-mails all the time.

SMS (especially SMS with Delivery Reports - Thank you O2 for not providing them, and I'm not being sarcastic) leaves the sender with an expectancy of an instant reply because hell, what are they doing if they haven't replied!? They must have read it by now!? Are they ignoring me? On the receiving end, I feel I must respond to an SMS fairly quickly for those reasons.

The argument for Push E-mail providing E-mail to read without having to wait for it to download is fair, but that's kind of sorted with the whole 'Download headers Only' options because I don;t want to download spam.

With E-mail, I feel I have time to breathe and think about my reply simply because it's not instant. We live in a world where everything is supposed to be instant, but I believe that human beings are not instant creatures. Our nature (whether by evolution or design) is to wait for things to move, grow, develop or even to simply become. I think that this instant everything is taking away our humanity!

Ok, I'm going to shut up now.

Good article. Thanks.

Stef 30-12-2004 01:40 AM

Personally, I don't think anyone "gets" the concept of push email at all! I own a Blackberry and it is the MOST useful device I carry!

Push email has NOTHING whatsoever to do with forcing anyone to reply there and then! You don't even have to read the email, should you hear your device bleep or see it flash! Its about CHOICE! It empowers you with CHOICE!

Text messaging is massive. And text messaging is in essence no different to push email. Except with email you are empowered to write more for less money and of course you can include attachments.

I totally disagree - like seriously disagree - with the comments that if its urgent people phone; that they would not entrust the urgent communication to mail servers. Utter rubbish.

When you make a voice call you entrust the communication to the phone network itself. And it is NOT the case that people will use voice communication if its urgent.

What can be more urgent than medical treatment? Doctors in hospitals all over the world are commnuicated to using pagers! Everything is entrusted to the network; that the message is received by the doctor. The message is PUSHED to the paging device.

With push email I am empowered now to receive urgent communications WITHOUT being disturbed by a ringing phone. I regularly receive urgent comms via text messaging. With a blackberry this is now via email, with plenty of added benefits.

I own my own company and I have people out on the road. We changed the way we did business and spent 10,000 UK Pounds on software development based purely on the availability of blackberry devices. If push email had not been around, we would not enjoy the benefits we do today i.e. a better way of doing business and huge cost savings.

Push email is IMHO, the ultimate empowerment of text messaging i.e. its the same as sending a SMS message, but with cost savings and added benefits, but its immediate. You have the same chance of someone reading the email there and then as if you sent a text message.

We live in a world where voice communication is not always accepted. Imagine sitting in a cinema watching a film. Your phone should be off and there is no way you could answer the phone. How does the urgent message get through to you then? What if its a family emergency? In situations like those, text messaging and the concept of push email share everything, and could mean everything too.

If you send text messages from your mobile phone then you are already embracing the concept behind push email...except with email you can send more for less!

If everyone had push email, text messaging would become redundant...and we'd all save a whole bunch of money!

Stef (Again) 30-12-2004 01:47 AM

I forgot to add.

To the comment "God intended email to work..." bit!

It wasn't that many years ago mobile phones didn't exist.

Do we argue that God intended us only to answer phones when we are at home or by our desk at work? Surely then the mobile phone has destroyed it (or evolved it depending on your viewpoint) ? Because now we are tied to the phone wherever we go...and given that this is all about smartphones, most of us must surely be in agreement we enjoy the benefits of the technology.

So the argument moves to push email...push email is what email should have always been.

Plus one other point....anyone who has interest in the zillion and one "Personal productivity" programs like Franklin Covey and all the others...there is often a running trend and theme of "do it now". If someone sends you a message and you read it and choose to action later, fine...but later on you'll end up spending time reading the message once again, which costs you more time.

Not to mention the fact that abbreviated communication is accepted in real-time exchange of messages, than if you choose to reply many hours later.

Sometimes the self-created pressure of instant replies does actually give you more of your life back because whatever you had to reply was done and dusted a longtime ago! So all those hours in the evening choosing your time to read/reply to emails...could be much better spent!!!

Food for thought and a counter opinion! :)

langdona 30-12-2004 10:04 AM

Well I will revise my original comment slightly.

I dont have anything against the concept of push mail. I would not complain if messages were unobtrusively pushed to me.

However it provides no great advantage to me and I would not pay anything extra for this additional service. I most definately would not want it at all if I ended up getting spam pushed to me or have to pay extra for large unsolicited emails.

At the end of the day its down to personal preference if getting emails instantly is important then fine.

Delta737 30-12-2004 10:48 AM

I don't get it. You guys say you don't wanna pay for push e-mail. But checking your e-mail every x minutes/hours is gonna be way more expensive, because of all the GPRS sessions (unless you have a really good data plan). So if push-mail wouldn't be too expensive (lets say between 5 and 10 per month) it could actually be cheaper then "pull-mail"

N/A 30-12-2004 03:13 PM

BlackBerry service pricing is in the 40-100 range (at least) per month per user, it seems (+ the device itself, of course).

langdona 30-12-2004 03:16 PM

I dont get enough email that I want to access on my phone to ever make it realisticly cheaper. I've set my phone to automatically download the headers 3 times a day on an account that does not get spam, the data use is insignificant.

If people want to get in touch with me immediately they will ring me. It it does not require an immediate response but needs a reply then they will send me a SMS. If its non urgent or has a lot of information then they will send me an email which I may or may not decide to download to my phone.

I know a lot of people who have phones that could access their email via one route or another but they dont want to. Not even if I offer to show them how to. So the market for push email on phones may not be that big.

Again its down to how you want to use your device if you want push email then I'm sure its very important to you and thats fine. Buy the device that suits you best. But if suppliers think they are going to generate significant extra revenue by providing push email services then I think they are going to be disappointed (Although its probably enough to keep Blackberry going for a while ;)).

I'm sure that at some point in the future the distinction between SMS and email will become merged at which point this discussion becomes academic.

timfoster 06-01-2005 03:30 PM

Delta737, it doesn't matter whether your email is push or pull, the data transfer rates wil be the same as it is the same data being transferred. ANY additional charge for the push service will make it more expensive than current pull technology.

Stef - "Imagine sitting in a cinema watching a film. Your phone should be off and there is no way you could answer the phone. How does the urgent message get through to you then? What if its a family emergency?" - Again this isn't really a valid argument in favour of push. Who checks their email whilst in the cinema?

Having said this though, I'm a big fan of push. I currently use Duality Push on my Sony Ericsson P910i. As I am on client sites most of the time, I can only check the email on my server in an evening (since our Exchange Server doesn't have a web interface enabled!) Also when I'm overseas access is even more limited. Push email gets around all of this. The only downside from my point of view is the cost. Ignoring the spam that gets through the filter, this is email I would have in my mailbox anyway, I can react to client issues at my leisure, but without the aggro of having to wait for the mails to download. Considering push email allows significantly large attachments, and a large proportion of attachments are Word, Excel or PDF, my P910i lets me view these files when I want. Admittedly I have to wait for the actual file to download, but the bulk of the message is there as soon as I open the inbox.

I agree with Stef in that push email is what email should have been from the start. In an ideal world all the devices we own will talk to each other and share data accordingly. Push email is a step towards this. The next step will be for trusted broadband enabled devices (i.e. mobiles and LANS) to be able to seemlessly integrate together, wherever. If I'm in Brasil I want to open the PC app on my 910 and see my desktop, with access to all the network drives and files as though I was in front of my PC. If the only charges are those for actual data transfer, rather than connection time, this would be a huge business benefit.

Having my email follow me automatically, is a great start. Now it needs to move to the next level.

(In case my ramblings have left anyone confused, I'm firmly in the 'Good thing' camp :D)

timfoster 06-01-2005 03:33 PM

I forgot to mention, Smartner Duality is 12 per user per month. This is where I have problem. Not a huge amount of money, I agree, but it should be offered by the networks for free!! Come on Orange, how about it? Huh?

Delta737 06-01-2005 03:59 PM


Originally Posted by timfoster
Delta737, it doesn't matter whether your email is push or pull, the data transfer rates wil be the same as it is the same data being transferred. ANY additional charge for the push service will make it more expensive than current pull technology.

It does matter, because if mail is pushed, it only connects if I mail is received, while if you pull mail, you don't know if you received mail, and therefore wasted a small amount of GPRS costs...

But if Blackberry is really between $50-$100 per month, it will always be more expensive, I admit

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