Microsoft has announced a pack of enhancements to its mobile e-mail solution. Along with other recent developments, it makes Microsoft's product worth considering as an alternative to more-expensive offerings.
On 6 June 2005, Microsoft announced its Messaging and Security Feature Pack for Windows Mobile 5.0. This is a series of enhancements for e-mail servers running Exchange 2003 with Service Pack 2 and clients running Windows Mobile 5.0. Features include "push" technology for e-mails and remote management of devices.
Gartner believes this pack, and earlier deals to license Microsoft's Exchange Server ActiveSync protocol, will make the company's mobile e-mail offering a "good enough" solution for some organizations. Security remains a problem, and enterprises should use third-party security products if they choose to deploy Microsoft's e-mail solution (see "Security in Windows Mobile 5.0 Messaging Pack Disappoints" ).
The messaging enhancements make Microsoft's offering a viable alternative to more-expensive gateway-based solutions from providers such as Research in Motion. Because it doesn't need an additional gateway, it will appeal to companies that already have Exchange servers and, due to limited budgets for mobile e-mail, are keen to control costs. Firms that have Exchange servers but have chosen to deploy gateway-based mobile e-mail for a few users will be able to use the new offering as a quick way to give mobile e-mail to many more employees.
Microsoft's product still lacks some features compared with dedicated mobile e-mail solutions. The pack adds what Microsoft calls Direct Push Technology, but this seems to be less efficient than other push implementations. It relies on devices maintaining a Secure Sockets Layer connection to an Exchange server by sending small packets of data. Microsoft's e-mail solution does away with the need for a network operations center to route e-mail to mobile devices. Enterprises with stringent security requirements may perceive this aspect as being less secure.
Include Microsoft's offering in your evaluation of mobile e-mail solutions if you don't have stringent security requirements, but ensure that it will deliver the promised features.
Be wary of buying early Windows Mobile 5.0 devices, and ensure that your contracts give you access to Feature Pack updates as they become available.
Analytical Sources: Monica Basso, Nick Jones and Ken Dulaney, Gartner Research
Recommended Reading and Related Research
"Third-Party Wireless Gateways Outperform Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 on PDAs and Smartphones" — Third-party gateways provide more functionality than Microsoft Exchange Server 2003, as well as improved push e-mail delivery. By Ken Dulaney
"Don't Be Paranoid About Wireless E-Mail Security" — Sending messages over mobile networks and storing them on handheld devices carries inherent risks, but peace of mind is just four steps away. By Monica Basso
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