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New Version of Mobile Information Server is Last

Microsoft Corp. rolled out the latest version of Mobile Information Server on Wednesday and simultaneously pronounced its death sentence. The technology underpinning Mobile Information Server will shift into the next versions of Exchange Server and Internet Security and Acceleration Server.

"At one time, we had thought and felt that there was a need for a specific middleware server for ... mobile functionality," says Chuck Sabin, product manager for Mobile Information Server. "We really determined in working with the customers that mobility really needs to be a part of our overall platform. As we've made it Web accessible, we need to make it mobile Web accessible."

Microsoft is alerting customers to the decision this early, says Sabin, in order to be open with customers and let them understand what the company's direction is.

Mobile Information Server is still positioned as a product that meets customer needs today, and will have an easy upgrade path to Exchange and ISA.

The version launched Wednesday is Mobile Information Server 2002, which follows closely on the heels of the first version of the mobility middleware server -- Mobile Information Server 2001 -- launched less than a year ago.

Mobile Information Server 2001 served two functions, as a secure authentication gateway for mobile users and as a way to provide mobile access to Outlook and Exchange.

The key enhancement in the 2002 version is the addition for users to synchronize mobile devices, including the PocketPC, directly with an Exchange server through a wireless connection. In the previous version, the synchronization had to go through the client.

Core technologies in Mobile Information Server 2002 will shift into versions of Exchange Server and ISA Server in the first half of 2003, Sabin predicts.

Outlook Mobile Access functionality will move into Exchange, much as Outlook Web Access is a part of the e-mail server. Microsoft will continue to work to broaden the types of devices and protocols supported by Outlook Mobile Access even after the technology is drawn into Exchange, Sabin says.

Meanwhile, the secure authorization piece of Mobile Information Server will move into ISA. The move would give administrators a single place to manage external access to the network.

Analyst Warren Wilson with Summit Strategies says the decision makes sense. "It reflects Microsoft's strength in the e-mail market and its desire to integrate as many separate products as it can."

"I think Microsoft certainly recognizes that mobile and wireless needs to be a big piece of its future," Wilson says. "Microsoft is taking the time to do it in a way that fully exploits its other market strengths."

About the Author

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

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