Jay Butler, Senior Support Consultant
Cellular phone technology has evolved in recent years with providers like Verizon, Sprint, Cingular, and T-mobile offering advanced phones that include always-on Internet access. Dubbed Smart Phones, these handheld devices combine the functions of a cell phone and a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) into one unit. The advent of high-speed Internet access over the wireless cellular network has sparked a new, widespread interest in these devices from corporate America.
This generation of Smart Phones provides business people a means to stay connected to their corporate email system in real-time while away from the office. The rich feature set includes the familiar office functions like the World Wide Web, email, Calendar, Address Book, and Notes. Other elements typically include data storage, digital camera/music/video, games, voice recorder, and a built-in miniature keyboard. Users may also choose from a vast array of downloadable applications. Smart Phones come in a variety of models like the popular Blackberry, Palm Treo, and Windows Mobile.
Smart Phones running the Microsoft Windows Mobile operating system usually feature a mobile version of the well-known Microsoft Office suite that includes Outlook, Word, Excel, Power Point, and Internet Explorer1. Microsoft ActiveSync software allows files to be transferred from PC to handheld via cradle or cable with synchronization to keep them consistent between the two locations. Smart Phones with always-on Internet connectivity facilitate live communication between Outlook Mobile and the corporate Microsoft Exchange server. Live Outlook Mobile works exactly like Outlook back at the office, so a user can send/receive new email using their corporate email address as if at their desk; no one will know the difference. This live, real-time communication synchronizes Outlook Mobile with Office Outlook so that both always display the same content. Users enjoy their latest Inbox, Calendar, Contacts, and Tasks at their fingertips all the time.
Live Outlook Mobile synchronization requires Microsoft Exchange 2003 Service Pack 2 at the office. The Smart Phone (or Pocket PC) needs Windows Mobile 5.0 and the Microsoft Messaging & Security Feature Pack (MSFP). These recent releases position Microsoft to pursue more of the mobile workflow market historically dominated by Blackberry. Microsoft now has a few advantages over the popular Blackberry devices mainly in the area of compatibility and cost.
Blackberry Smart Phones require an additional server on the corporate network, separate licenses, and 3rd party software to achieve full function. A Blackberry server functions in between the Microsoft Exchange server and Blackberry handhelds while Windows Mobile handhelds need no such middleware. Blackberry handhelds depend on the Blackberry server to emulate the Microsoft solution. Microsoft Windows Mobile Smart Phones require only Microsoft Exchange 2003 Service Pack 2 at the office. With Windows Mobile Smart Phones, Microsoft connects to Microsoft for the best possible compatibility.
Better compatibility usually means lower long-term costs in the area of support because the components “play” better together. That means fewer problems, and with Microsoft’s vast, high-quality support network, it means faster solutions. Using only Microsoft technology eliminates any finger pointing, so Blackberry cannot fault Microsoft and vice-versa. Microsoft experienced technicians can install, configure and support the Windows Mobile solution without the need for 3rd party training or support.
Support will be of paramount importance because users will become dependent on their devices and demand 100% uptime. As an Administrator, the last thing you want trouble supporting is mobile devices in the hands of demanding, novice users.
While end users are often technically challenged, they will have little trouble learning to use Windows Mobile. As Microsoft PC users, they will be very familiar with a Windows Mobile Smart Phone because it runs a mobile version of the same software they use everyday on their PCs. Keep in mind, Blackberry has its own software for users to familiarize themselves with in order to use the device. With Windows Mobile, most users will pick it up quickly with very few questions if any at all. As a result, training costs and user frustration will be minimal.
Unfortunately, user-friendly does not mean permanent attachment to user hips. Inevitably, someone is bound to lose their device or have it stolen. With Windows Mobile, we can use the popular down under response, “No worries mate” – The Windows Mobile 5.0 Messaging and Security Feature Pack (MSFP) includes remote wipe. You can use remote wipe to clear data and credentials even without physical access to the device and configure the device to lock if the wrong password is entered too many times. MSFP also includes password policy and time-out controls, and it is all enforced from the Exchange server without physical connectivity to the mobile device. WiFi capable Smart Phones can be secured as well by enforcing encrypted WiFi communication2.
Replacing lost or stolen devices could not be easier. Since user data is stored on the Exchange server, you can configure a replacement device in just a few clicks. Outlook Mobile resynchronizes with Exchange to reproduce the user’s Outlook data in seconds.
By now, you are probably wondering about data transaction security with it flying around in the air during synchronizations. Well, there are no worries here either because the communication is encrypted. Synchronization occurs over the HTTPS protocol using the 128 bit SSL encryption standard. Many web sites use the same method to secure sensitive data transactions.
With the release of Windows Mobile 5.0 and Exchange 2003 Service Pack 2, Microsoft is poised to dethrone Blackberry from atop the mobile workflow market. Windows Mobile Smart Phones are reliable, cost-effective, secure, and user-friendly. They do not require any additional infrastructure on the corporate LAN for seamless integration into an existing Exchange 2003 organization. Hence, the associated implementation and administrative costs are low relative to other systems. With the security features of MSFP, the system follows GLBA compliance guidelines. As we move further into the wireless age, Microsoft is sure to continue aggressive pursuit of market share with continual innovation in the budding realm of mobile workflow.
To learn more about the Windows Mobile 5.0 solution, please attend our upcoming Webcast entitled “Extending Your Office: Using Current Windows Technology to Stay Connected on the Go.” The following dates are still available:
August 15th (10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.)
August 24th (2:00 p.m. -3:00 p.m.)
- Devices that run the full suite of Office Mobile software are sometimes called Pocket PCs. As these technologies mature, the difference between a Smart Phone and a Pocket PC is becoming negligible because the functions of each overlap. For the purposes of this article the difference in terminology is of little importance. In general, the term Smart Phone emerged when cellular phone providers began adding PDA functionality to their devices while a Pocket PC is a miniature personal computer in its own right (much like a PDA). A Pocket PC may or may not include cellular phone network connectivity. Therefore, the term Smart Phone or handheld will be used throughout this article since the focus revolves around using the cellular network for constant communication with the corporate office.
- WiFi capability may be included on some devices. WiFi provides the device connectivity to any WiFi wireless network (that may or may not include Internet access). WiFi is independent of the cellular provided Internet access commonly referenced in this article. WiFi networks typically include Internet access, so it provides the same function as the cellular provided service. For example, WiFi could be used in place of the cellular connectivity when the phone is out of range.