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Mobile Feature Pack to Upgrade Security

Here's the scenario: Your scatterbrained Human Resources director has once again left his PDA in a cab. On his PDA is salary information, Social Security numbers and other highly sensitive information for every single employee in your organization. Imagining an unscrupulous cabbie or passenger abusing that information has you in a cold sweat.

According to Microsoft, if you have the Messaging and Security Feature Pack for Windows Mobile 5.0, this nightmare can be avoided. The ability to remotely wipe the hard drive of a device that's in danger of being compromised is one of the enhancements to its mobile operating system, due out this fall.

The feature pack works with Exchange Server 2003 Service Pack 2, due around the same time. It's part of Microsoft's effort to win over users of mobile devices like the RIM BlackBerry, using similar "push" technology to move data to PDAs, cell phones and other handheld units. (Microsoft has confirmed that the feature pack will not be backwards compatible, so it won't be available to environments running previous versions of Exchange.)

Microsoft touted some other enhancements of the feature pack, including the ability to look up global address information on a wireless device, and manage and enforce corporate IT policy over the air. John Starkweather, a senior product manager for Windows Mobile, said there's a huge untapped market for the advantages offered by the feature pack. There are between 130 million and 140 million Exchange users worldwide, he estimated. By contrast, only about 20 million people use mobile e-mail in any form.

Although that number is relatively small, it appears the market has embraced the promise of mobile computing; Starkweather said there are currently about 40 OEMs building Windows Mobile devices today. One advantage they have over non-Windows mobile developers is the simplicity of the system. Windows Mobile uses a direct IP connection from Exchange to the device, cutting out middleware and other servers used in a multi-tiered environment like BlackBerry. The data sent between the device and Exchange is encrypted for security. That simplicity, Microsoft hopes, will also lead to reduced hardware and software costs.

Cutting out the extra layers seems to speed up communications; a Microsoft demo showed a PDA synching with Exchange and pulling down e-mail, calendar, contact and other information in just seconds.

At its TechEd announcement of the feature pack, though, the focus was clearly on the security aspects of the update, in recognition of the public and IT's continuing wariness of Microsoft's track record on security when it comes to new products. The biggest security threat with mobile devices, Starkweather said, is "someone leaving the device somewhere."

But another common security threat is not an issue for Microsoft mobile devices—at least so far. Starkweather said there has never been a successful attack on a mobile phone using a Windows OS.

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine.

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Reader Comments:

Tue, Jun 6, 2006 Skythra Australia

Basically, the microsoft "haters" are an important role in the economy. Wait Economy? What economy? With its only rival OSX taking its strategy rather then compete with microsoft, rather sit in a niche and do its job well, there is no true "economy".

Simple economics: without competition, a company may provide what it wishes at whatever cost it wants, as long as that product is needed. Only competition will lead to efficiency.

Those microsoft haters that "dont accept the monopoly" are the ones that also point out the flaws in microsoft products. Why is this important? Because while microsoft is the sole monpoly, no matter HOW bad it produces a product, its the standard. It only fixes problems that would legally lead agaisnt them. Microsoft have known about problems to do with memory allocation for a long time, but why is it not being fixed till SP3? Because it doesnt need to. It can dedicate resources to other areas. Rather then security, it can try and expand itself over everything and hence gain a larger market percentage.

What would many competitors do in an industry like this? Cause problems thats for sure. Would you buy a second rate product if you could afford not to? Would you buy a horse and cart, or a car? Would you go directly to work, or would you drive the contryside before slowly making your way to your desk? There are times you might not follow the better decision yes, but only if thats in your benefit.

A more secure, and equally viable operating system would lead to people wishing instead to use that system as their implementation. Yes there are various forms of free linux distributions, but they aren't precieved easy to use (a poor reputation for no good reason, as many of them are easier to setup and use then M$ right now). Microsoft's monopoly means people dont get a good deal.

Saying sweet words in your introduction topic might make you sound like the good guy, but ignoring the issue, means that you are misleading people.

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