Microsoft Adds Mobile Device Management to Lineup

Microsoft added a new server to its lineup today, this one aimed at the growing mobile technology market.

At a keynote address to the Cellular Technology Industry Association (CTIA) of America in San Francisco, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced the Microsoft System Center Mobile Device Manager 2008. Mobile Device Manager provides a centralized way to secure, manage and upgrade the mobile devices on a network.

"People expect to be able to do more and more with their mobile phone," Ballmer said in the keynote. "We're building on our expertise across servers, operating systems and services to deliver Windows Mobile experiences that bridge the things people want to do at work and at home."

That includes key security features, such as the ability to remotely wipe a device if it's lost or stolen, and full on-device file encryption. Being part of the Windows Server System also means it becomes part of the Active Directory domain, bringing the ability to use Group Policy to the mobile environment. Additionally, devices can be updated through Windows Software Update Services, making sure they meet an organization's current security and software requirements.

Microsoft never launches a new product without detailing partner support, and Mobile Device Manager was no exception. Two of the nation's top wireless carriers, AT&T and Sprint, announced support for Mobile Device Manager, and "new phones or updates to support Mobile Device Manager are expected to be available beginning the second quarter of 2008 from HP, HTC, i-mate, Intermec, Motorola, Palm Inc. and Samsung," according to a Microsoft press release.

Mobile Device Manager works only with Windows Mobile devices, and requires a server license and Client Access License (CAL) for each managed device. Prices were not listed on Microsoft's Website, but the company said the server is available through Volume Licensing agreements.

Configuration of Mobile Device Manager could end up being complex for an organization, as Microsoft said that at a minimum, two servers will be necessary; one in a company's demilitarized zone (DMZ), and one on the corporate intranet.

Although Mobile Device Manager can be used in concert with Exchange Server, it's not required, according to Microsoft. There are no dependencies between the products.

One of the initial main drawbacks with Mobile Device Manager is likely to be a lack of supported devices. Out of the gate, only three mobile devices are supported: The AT&T Tilt, Treo 750 and Blackjack II. Microsoft's Web site states that more devices are coming, but didn't list a timeframe for those devices.

More information is available on the Mobile Device Manager homepage.

About the Author

Keith Ward is editor of Virtualization Review magazine. You can contact Keith at [email protected].