IT analyst, The Strategic Counsel

IT industry observers and professionals say Microsoft Corp. could become something of a thorn in the side of Canada’s own Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM) as the Redmond, Wash.-based tech giant unveils “direct push” e-mail for mobile devices.

At TechEd, Microsoft’s technology education conference being held in Orlando from June 5 to 10, the firm announced the Messaging and Security Feature Pack for Windows Mobile 5.0, its operating system for handheld computers.

Based on features that customers will find in Exchange Server 2003 SP2 – the next iteration of Microsoft’s messaging platform – the feature pack includes direct push e-mail technology, which provides a straight link between Exchange and mobile devices. Customers that install the feature pack don’t have to use any intervening servers or services to make e-mail appear at the mobile handset automatically.

Waterloo, Ont.-based RIM is considered to be the leading provider of push-to-mobile e-mail communication. Now that Microsoft provides a direct-from-Exchange push, “I think they’ll give RIM a run for their money,” said David Totzke, application architect at Stryker Corp., a medical implant and instrumentation provider with offices in Hamilton, Ont. Many a Stryker employee has a BlackBerry, RIM’s popular mobile communication device. I wouldn’t categorize it as Microsoft being really aggressive.Warren Shiau>Text For Kieron Quigley, solutions architect at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) in Edmonton, Microsoft’s entry in the push-e-mail space is a good thing. “Prices are going to come down” for push-messaging platforms thanks to the competition between Microsoft and RIM, he said.

Warren Shiau, IT analyst at The Strategic Counsel in Toronto, pointed out that Microsoft’s new mobile messaging feature indicates that the software provider is “catching up” to RIM. “I wouldn’t categorize it as Microsoft being really aggressive.” Direct-push technology is just one of the pieces in Microsoft’s feature pack. The upgrade offering includes a function that lets mobile-device users access their co-workers’ contact details stored on Exchange. The feature pack also affords easier mobile device management. For instance, now IT administrators can enforce security policies on handheld computers – say, use of a password to access the device. As well, administrators can remotely wipe the mobile computer’s hard drive in case it’s lost.

Michelle Warren, IT industry analyst at Evans Research Corp., noted that Microsoft’s messaging moves marry two of the hottest tech topics for Canadian businesses these days: security and mobility.

Hillary Wittmann with Microsoft said the new functions give people still using Exchange 5.5 a compelling reason to upgrade to Exchange 2003. She also noted that support for Exchange 5.5 ends on Dec. 31.

Related links:

PalmOne licenses Microsoft Exchange for mobile e-mail

Microsoft pegs new Exchange release for 2006

Microsoft more vague about Exchange road map

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