Mobile Information Server 2.0 on Tap

Less than four months after releasing the first version of its mobile communications server for extending Exchange-based mailboxes to wireless devices, Microsoft Corp. unveiled a roadmap for a second release due to ship in early 2002.

Mobile Information Server (MIS) 2001 went into general availability in June. Mobile Information Server 2002 Enterprise Edition will be available early next year, Microsoft officials said Monday at the Microsoft Exchange Conference (MEC) 2001 in Orlando, Fla.

Microsoft also signed a deal to make it easier for enterprises to set up Mobile Information Server 2002 in global environments where many carriers are involved. MobileSys Inc. will offer an MIS-based service in which MobileSys deals with carriers worldwide, allowing enterprises to deal exclusively with MobileSys.

Mobile Information Server 2001 was limited in its ability to grant wireless access to Exchange-Outlook inboxes by its support only for WAP-enabled phones and by being dependent on the desktop-based Outlook Mobile Manager for receiving e-mail.

The new version will support PocketPC devices and can synchronize directly with a server, cutting out the desktop or the need for one. PocketPC is scheduled for launch on Thursday. Microsoft also plans to support its smart phone platform, formerly known by the copyright-troubled codename of Stinger.

David Rasmussen, lead product manager for Mobile Information Server, lists some of the problem scenarios corrected by the new direct synchronization between server and wireless device. "Users who may not have a desktop, or users who may not have a desktop on," he says.

Microsoft is building a number of other mobile access technologies and features into Mobile Information Server 2002.

Secure Sockets Layer communication is now possible for phones using Microsoft Mobile Explorer. Bandwidth optimization allows users to read e-mail without downloading bulky attachments and to forward the e-mail -- comments, attachment and all -- still without downloading the attachment. Similar technology allows a user to set a preference to only receive the most recent comment in an e-mail thread, rather than the whole conversation.

One of the most compelling features for IT may be two new utilities used in combination. the MIS Enterprise Setup Tool and the MIS Personal Setup Tool.

The enterprise setup tool allows an administrator to bulk enable a group of users, such as the sales department, to have wireless access to their mailboxes. The personal setup tool gives those users a Web interface where they can go in and enter their own wireless phone numbers and device specifications, freeing the administrator from that arduous task. Later, when a user gets a new device or phone number, she can go back into the MIS Personal Setup Tool and update her own information.

Another point of pain for IT with Mobile Information Server has been the global patchwork of wireless and paging carriers, Rasmussen says. Microsoft's partnership with MobileSys is supposed to address that problem.

While setting up MIS 2001 at small and medium businesses that deal with only one carrier hasn't been that difficult, MIS can be hairy at enterprises with global reach and contact with as many as 30 carriers.

"We're the glue between an enterprise and carriers all over the world," says David Coelho, president and CEO of MobileSys. "The combination between MIS and MobileSys gives you a turnkey solution."

MobileSys works with 200 carriers worldwide, including virtually all carriers in the United States and Europe, to guarantee an MIS-based wireless infrastructure, Coelho says. The company charges on a per-user and per-message basis.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.