Microsoft extends wireless middleware footprint

Microsoft and wireless infrastructure services provider MobileSys are offering secure wireless access via the Microsoft Information Server 2002 Enterprise Edition and the MobileSys global data network.

NEW YORK -- Microsoft and turnkey wireless infrastructure services provider MobileSys announced on Monday an alliance aimed at offering enterprises secure wireless access via Microsoft Information Server 2002 Enterprise Edition and the MobileSys global data network.

MIS 2002 EE is the beta 2 release of Microsoft's wireless middleware server designed to bring corporate and personal information management (PIM) applications to mobile users in real time. Microsoft is attempting to use its strong position on the desktop -- including Windows 2000, XP, MSN and Exchange -- to extend data access to a number of clients, including .NET-enabled Pocket PC 2002-powered devices, TVs and PCs.

The Microsoft and MobileSys alliance aims to ease the delivery of enterprise information, corporate intranet applications and services to mobile users worldwide in a secure fashion, and to free enterprises from the responsibility of building and managing a global wireless infrastructure. Using the latest Microsoft MIS, MobileSys's Globility Access pushes Microsoft Outlook Mobile Access data and other enterprise data messages through a single point of access to wireless devices, said MobileSys founder and CEO David Coelho. MobileSys has established a series of agreements with national wireless carriers to provide a global wireless data network that connects enterprises, ASPs and e-businesses with their employees, customers and partners.

MIS provides access to Microsoft's core operating systems, including Exchange 2000 and Exchange Server 5.5. Microsoft has increased MIS and back-end server scalability to take advantage of the launch of 2.5G networks and the growth in wireless enterprise software and services.

Key new MIS 2002 EE features include enhanced security, additional phone support, new administration tools, updated deployment topologies, improved performance, an updated software developer's kit, new language support and over-the-air server synchronization with mobile devices such as those using Microsoft's new Pocket PC 2002 software.

Microsoft's ActiveSync software includes remote synchronization, improved conflict resolution, truncation and fault tolerance to make it easier to synchronize over wireless and wired networks. According to Microsoft, drastic improvements have also been made to USB connectivity and synchronization that provide faster transfer speeds and avoid conflicts with other serial devices. Infrared synchronization with computers running Windows 2000 should also be easier.

Also worth noting: Microsoft seems to have finally come off the fence as far as potential support for SyncML is concerned, saying that the specification is too 'chatty' and relies on too much network bandwidth. The SyncML specification is designed to ensure that any device can synchronize PIM data with any other device. Microsoft said SyncML support will be made available through third parties.

Device and server interoperable synchronization is seen as one of the keys to the success of the next stage of wireless computing -- data. As the number of devices that an individual uses increases, multiple versions of personal information -- address book, calendar, task list, audio and video files, bookmarks and documents -- across a user's various devices can become a problem. Synchronization is important because it provides application developers and providers with the opportunity to offer 'sticky' value-added services across the multitude of devices.

MIS 2002 EE still leaves Microsoft a long ways behind companies such as Starfish Software. Starfish's synchronization and infrastructure server software, TrueSync, enables multipoint synchronization across different PIM applications and devices. Microsoft only supports Pocket PC, Windows CE and embedded OS devices. Additional MIS improvements include broader WAP support "for virtually all WAP gateways," claimed Juha Christensen, vice president of the mobility group at Microsoft, and a new software developer's kit to provide multiple device types and code, enabling third parties to build connectors for applications such as Lotus Notes and Oracle.

Christensen claims MIS, through SOAP interfaces, is more versatile than IBM's wireless edition of WebSphere, while Oracle continues to take a 'lowest common denominator' approach to wireless messaging for devices. "There's no ability to make a distinction between devices or their importance," he claims.

MobileSys Globility Access is available through IBM Global Services, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Compuware, and will begin shipping in early November. MIS 2002 EE will be generally available "soon.?

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