Microsoft unveils new wireless server

Microsoft Corp. last month announced software products to let handheld users connect wirelessly to applications and data on Windows 2000 servers.

Microsoft Mobile Information 2001 Server (MIS), dubbed “Airstream” by its developers, is server software and tools that let network managers grant wireless access to existing Web and enterprise applications, according to Microsoft. When it ships in the first half of 2001, MIS will open existing corporate resources to a wide range of handheld devices equipped with various browsers.

Also announced was the first MIS application, Outlook Mobile Access, which will ship with the server. The application creates secure connections to Microsoft Exchange 5.5 and Exchange 2000 applications such as e-mail, calendar and contacts. Users can use a cell phone’s microbrowser to review, answer, create and delete e-mail, for example.

MIS was developed with partner Wireless Knowledge, a company that is a joint venture of Microsoft and Qualcomm. According to a Microsoft statement, the new server will replace Wireless Knowledge’s Workstyle Server 3.0, which today creates exactly the same kind of mobile access to Exchange 5.5 data and applications.

The new MIS server, like the Wireless Knowledge product, lets any handheld with a browser or microbrowser use any of an array of existing wireless connections to connect to the server, which can be behind the corporate firewall. MIS will support a range of network protocols and languages, including HTML, HDML and WAP.

MIS promises a “secure” connection, presumably by means of Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption, as is used by Wireless Knowledge. The MIS server then manages the internal connections to the corporate Exchange servers.

Microsoft will offer two versions of MIS. The Enterprise Edition, hosted on corporate nets, extends the corporate intranet to mobile users, and gives them the familiar Microsoft Outlook GUI for e-mail. The Carrier Edition is aimed at service providers.

In last month’s announcement, part of the Enterprise 2000 launch in San Francisco, executives emphasized MIS as a “platform”-a set of programs and tools, building on the established Microsoft APIs and protocols. At the same time, Microsoft is touting MIS as a key step in its .Net strategy, which is still being fleshed out.

Microsoft is at