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Since June 2009 when IBM (news, site) announced a research fund of US $100 million to develop mobile technologies there have been a number of new initiatives. The latest one is the internal release of a new technology called Mail Triage that aims to improve how users manage their email from mobile devices.

While the project appears to have some ground yet to cover before a final version will emerge, it has thrown together both computer scientists and sociologists to redesign the way people will use their mobiles for email management based on the way people are seen to be working already.

Mobile Email Access

The starting point, IBM says, is the assumption that people who are using email from their mobile devices will act and react to emails the same way they would if they were accessing the email from a desktop.

However, IBM says that it has identified a major difference in the two behaviors and is designing a new software package around that difference.

In effect, users who are accessing email on mobile devices are more focused on “triage” -- prioritizing emails by importance -- scanning through the contents of their email inbox and deciding instantaneously what needs to be dealt with immediately, what can be deleted and what can be put on hold.

And because it is difficult to identify what is “new”, “unread” and “for follow up” in current mobile interfaces, the new prototype enables users to quickly identify (triage) their priorities and what action needs to be taken.

Today, people use devices interchangeably and in context with other devices, so we have developed a prototype application for mail triage to reflect today's smartphone email experience, Jeff Pierce, manager, mobile computing research, IBM Research at Almaden said.

On the new screen, users will be able to specify actions to be taken with each email including deferring tasks until the user is on an appropriate device. If you want to know more about ‘Triage’ have a look at this short video.

IBM’s Mobile Strategy

The Mail Triage is only for use by selected employees in IBM, but the company says it will be going to beta with it in the future, although when it hasn’t said.

It is part of the mobile web strategy announced last year by IBM and follows on the heels of a new, research initiative to explore an open, common user interface platform for mobile devices, to make them easier to use for disadvantaged populations around the world.

The strategy, which will be spread over five years, is targeting a market of millions of users who have bypassed using the personal computer as their primary method of accessing the Internet. Over the course of the next few years, IBM will focus on

  • mobile enterprise enablement
  • emerging market mobility
  • enterprise end-user mobile experiences

Specifically, the areas that are seen as most important include analytics, security, privacy and user interface, and navigation.

IBM’s efforts in this space are starting to really show. In the last week alone it has launched the beta of business collaboration software for the Android operating system, as well as a number of background support services for mobile enterprises including a new a software development laboratory in Massachusetts. Watch for further updates.