Wakey Wakey, Microsoft!
As it stands, Microsoft is late to the party and appears to have brought a half-empty bottle of Thunderbird. The firm is adding support for laptop and Microsoft handheld users but no wireless access. "Topaz" users will have to use a Windows Remote Access Service (RAS) client over a standard wired WAN connection.
This puts Microsoft a long way behind smaller companies like XcelleNet Inc. that have led the charge on software that helps enterprises extend corporate applications like directories to the mobile appliances of staff away from the office.
Recently, larger companies in the enterprise market such as Novell Inc. (Nasdaq: NOVL) and Novadigm Inc. have started to bring out mobile management software, mostly as an adjunct to existing desktop management or directory packages (see Cannes Do).
However, Microsoft has been conspicuously absent from the mobile management game. The current version of its flagship desktop management software, SMS, does not have specific support for mobile or remote users.
"Gartner now expects that SMS 2003, code named 'Topaz,' will be out by June 2003," says Ronni Colville, research director of the network and systems management group at Gartner. She had originally expected the software revision to hit the streets in the fourth quarter of this year.
The major update is a new agent that supports laptop users when they are mobile or connected to a wired LAN or WAN. Redmond has added more support for its Windows CE embedded operating system, the code from which its Pocket PC and smartphone OS are derived.
Even with this update, Microsoft is still well behind XcelleNet (which just happens to be a Microsoft Certified Solutions Partner [MCSP]) in terms of supporting a range of devices and connecting to wireless networks.
Microsoft tends to be slow in supporting devices running operating systems other than its own. Clearly it would like to see Pocket PC and its variants emerge as some kind of corporate standard.
However, this doesn't look likely to happen anytime soon, so multidevice support is still crucial in corporations that may be using a mixture of Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM) (Nasdaq: RIMM; Toronto: RIM) pagers and Palm Inc. (Nasdaq: PALM) handhelds, as well as MS Pocket PC organizers. This situation is only likely to be exacerbated as smartphones from Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) become part of the fabric of corporate life. [Ed. note: Must be someone with an expense account buying those Nokia 9210 Communicators, eh Dan?]
The lack of wireless support is harder to explain. XcelleNet and other companies are now supporting a range of wireless WAN networks -- everything from GSM and CDMA to pager networks.
So, why has Microsoft got so far behind in the mobile management market? One suggestion is that Microsoft has let management fall between the cracks because it is not handled by the systems management people or the Windows CE folk at the Redmond campus (see XcelleNet Gets In Sync With Ehand ). However, even though Microsoft is late to this particular jamboree, it would be foolish to count them out in the management space. Especially as they have one of the major desktop management systems, and IT managers are notoriously conservative folk who prefer to go with names that they know when making buying decisions.
— Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung