MS to show new version of Mobile server

Microsoft Corp. will unveil this week at the Internet Wireless World conference in New York its Mobile Information Server (MIS) 2002, the next iteration of its application server for wireless access to Exchange server.

MIS is currently a standalone application that manages authentication and authorization as it serves up Microsoft’s OMA (Outlook Mobile Access) software. Although MIS will not be integrated into Exchange Server, OMA will become an “integral part” of Exchange Server in the first quarter, said David Rasmusen, lead product manager for MIS at Microsoft, in Redmond, Wash.

MIS 2002 will now give mobile Pocket Outlook users the ability to directly synchronize with the server.

One industry analyst said the wireless synchronization is a major enhancement to MIS, but is only part of a long-term strategy to capture the lion’s share of enterprise business.

“What Microsoft is doing is further extending its leadership position with Pocket PC within the enterprise. Eventually, they will use MIS to help solidify the use of .Net for mobilizing Web services,” said David Hayden, president of MobileWeek, a mobile consultancy based in Palo Alto, Calif.

With enterprise-level companies somewhat hesitant to deploy wireless until security issues are resolved, MIS 2002 support for Secure ID technology is an important addition, according to Hayden.

Secure ID gives users a constantly changing PIN (Personal Identification Number) displayed in a small LCD on any credit card-sized ID card. The algorithm on the server keeps pace with the rotating PIN on the card.

The server software will also include additional management capabilities that in one instance will free up IT management time by allowing the client to change his or her cell phone number and still remain authenticated with the server.

To send Exchange messages to mobile devices, the authentication was based on the user’s phone number, said Rasmussen. Trying to manage dozens or hundreds of users who change their cell phones frequently is a major headache for IT departments, said Rasmussen. “This [feature] is a big selling point [in the enterprise]. Most of these products require IT to manage every detail,” said Rasmussen.

Another management feature is a setup tool that will give IT managers the ability to “bulk”-enable large groups of users when adding features or applications.

Over time, the MIS will be made extensible for other Microsoft server products, said Rasmussen.

“Users will be able to write a mobile Web application for SQL in Visual Studio .Net, develop an application to access data, and use the security functionality in MIS,” said Rasmussen.

Future directions also include adding presence and online notification functionality either through Outlook Mobile Access or Instant Messaging, said Rasmussen. Microsoft strategy is heavily dependent on building viability for .Net and in selling more Exchange services, according to Hayden. “This further solidifies their position and enhances the platform,” he said.

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