Microsoft takes big step in managing enterprise handhelds

One new bit of code in Windows Mobile 6.1 makes this otherwise-minor release of Microsoft’s handheld operating system a watershed for enterprise users.

The new code contains hooks into Microsoft’s System Center Mobile Device Manager 2008 (MDM), a new server application that is the first major effort by the company to make handhelds as manageable and secure as PCs. At the CTIA Wireless show, Microsoft announced that MDM, unveiled last October, was now shipping.

The company also said that a handful of mobile carriers are preparing subscription service plans for enterprise customers, built around MDM. The carriers will offer simplified licensing for the application, one-call tech support, and an optimized network connection for subscriber devices.

Enterprises face a daunting set of challenges in administering and securing Windows Mobile handhelds and the corporate data they carry. In meeting these challenges, Microsoft has lagged far behind a group of well-established rivals, both large and small.

MDM is a major step forward for Microsoft. It’s a licensed server application, deployed behind the firewall, with a gateway server in the DMZ. Each mobile client needs a separate access license. The server works only with Windows Mobile 6.1, just released and due out on new phones by mid-year. Version 6.0 phones can be upgraded to 6.1, says John Traynor, a senior director in Microsoft’s Mobile Communications Business.

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