SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 26, 2000 — From powerful mobile telephones and pocket-sized personal digital assistants (PDAs) to computers embedded in cars, people today find themselves surrounded by a wide variety of mobile computing devices. Paul Gross, senior vice president of the mobility group at Microsoft believes this trend has nowhere to go but up.
“In five years, I think cell phone usage will far outstrip usage of fixed line phones, and a high percentage of mobile phones will be data-enabled with connections to the Internet,”
“In five years, you’ll have a lot of people whose first experience on the World Wide Web will be on some sort of mobile device.”
According to Gross, however, mobile computing will only begin to reach its true potential when all computing devices can function together seamlessly:
“All the information we need and the communication options we want should be easily available, no matter where we are or what time it is, and no matter what computing device we are using.”
“To create mobile solutions that work together seamlessly and can interface with existing Internet-based communication and information infrastructures requires a set of technological building blocks that can achieve maximum interconnectivity among a wide array of computing appliances,”
“Yet these building blocks also must be highly customizable: with the increasing diversity of mobile devices and technologies, customers require application platforms that can easily scale and adapt across many different networks, devices and applications.”
Microsoft today announced Mobile Information 2001 Server (previously code-named
), a mobile applications server aimed at providing corporations, mobile network operators, application service providers (ASPs) and developers with a platform for securely delivering and developing real-time mobile data services for the mobile device. According to Gross, the Mobile Information Server platform provides a complete mobile solution — one that allows a variety of wireless and mobile devices to work together using a single, unified application. A new addition to the .NET server family, Mobile Information Server also extends Microsoft’s .NET platform to mobile users and represents a core component of Microsoft’s overall mobility strategy.
“Microsoft’s Mobile Information Server gives users the benefit of Internet services along with the convenience of portability so that they have access to information any time, anywhere and from a range of mobile devices, as well as the ability to control how they interact with that data and other mobile users,”
“Mobile Information Server is central to Microsoft’s vision and strategy in the wireless space. It provides a platform by which any application or Web site can be enabled for mobile access and notifications.”
Two Versions of Mobile Information Server
Microsoft is offering two unique versions of the Mobile Information Server: one engineered for the enterprise and one tailored for the mobile carrier. Both editions allow corporate Windows and Web applications to be mobile-enabled and securely accessed from any mobile device, and can be linked together in a way that offers greater security and improved message formatting benefits to the mobile professional.
The Enterprise Edition is designed for use by corporate customers, and is typically hosted on the enterprise network next to the Exchange Server or other corporate data servers. In addition to enabling corporate customers to develop an enterprise-wide mobile strategy, it extends the corporate communications infrastructure to users when they’re away from the office by putting critical intranet information and applications at mobile users’ fingertips.
Mobile Information Server enables wireless users to easily access corporate data stored on Microsoft servers and applications, as well as on existing enterprise intranet applications. E-mail and information delivery is based on the familiar menu-based desktop Outlook model, reducing the steep learning curve usually associated with the initial deployment of mobile internetworking and mobile-enabling platforms.
Faster and smoother deployment also results in increased productivity for mobile users through increased mobile collaboration and information sharing. Most important, Gross said, the Enterprise Edition takes advantage of a mobile platform optimized for high-performance connectivity and increased data security by placing control of mobile device access within the corporate firewall, guaranteeing maximum security of mobile communications.
The Carrier Edition of Mobile Information Server is designed for use by mobile operators. It allows them to offer mobile Internet services to both consumers and enterprises on a variety of wireless applications and devices from multiple vendors. In addition, the Carrier Edition will enable mobile operators to use a single platform to rapidly deploy new or differentiated mobile data services for consumers and corporate customers. The Carrier Edition also allows mobile operators to access Microsoft enterprise and Internet customers, who number 55 million users of Exchange and more than 200 million users of MSN and Hotmail.
According to Gross, the Enterprise and Carrier editions of Mobile Information Server may be used independently, but offer the best security and richest performance capability when used in tandem.
Outlook Goes Wireless with Mobile Information Server
In addition to introducing Mobile Information Server, Microsoft also announced Outlook Mobile Access, the initial application that will ship with Mobile Information Server. Outlook Mobile Access enables secure, real-time access to Microsoft Exchange 5.5 and Exchange 2000-based personal information management applications such as email, calendaring, contacts and tasks.
Outlook Mobile Access gives mobile users full desktop email functionality, including the ability receive notifications from Outlook and to browse, reply, forward, compose and delete email on mobile phones equipped with a microbrowser. At the heart of Outlook Mobile Access is a browser-based personalization interface that allows users to set preferences for their mobile devices — providing them with better control of their mobile communications and a richer experience overall.
For mobile customers who want increased Outlook notification functionality, but do not have Mobile Information Server, Microsoft has also announced Outlook Mobile Manager, a standalone desktop application that extends Outlook rules to mobile devices and gives users greater control of their communications.
Outlook Mobile Manager is designed to help users govern when, where and which email, calendar entries, contacts and tasks are delivered to them as notifications. Outlook Mobile Manager also contains natural-language processing technology that automatically shrinks content of messages to better fit in a short notification.
Although it is not required, Gross said, when Outlook Mobile Manager is used in conjunction with Mobile Information Server, it provides the user with a more secure communications path over the Internet, better message formatting and integrity, and monitored delivery to the mobile operator network, providing even greater control and functionality to the mobile user.
A Foundation For Interoperability
According to Gross, Mobile Information Server is designed to be the foundation for new generations of mobile applications, as it provides a rich set of services on which developers can build and deploy mobile applications. The server supports interactive applications on any type of browser-based platform and can support a number of popular network protocols and languages, including HTML, HDML and WAP. The modular nature of Mobile Information Server’s architecture gives the system inherent scalability and allows developers lots of opportunities for customization, Gross said.
Because Mobile Information Server is a unified platform for building device-independent applications, its use assures interoperability between wireless applications and devices from multiple vendors and wireless carriers. It also provides security:
“In today’s wireless world, it’s paramount to provide secure wireless communications and data exchange by offering end-to-end security features for all wireless solutions,”
Microsoft will continue to develop new applications and services for Mobile Information Server, Gross said, and the company is working with a number of development partners, including its Joint Venture partner, Wireless Knowledge, to develop and build additional mobile solutions, products and services.
As a key part of the Microsoft .NET strategy, Mobile Information Server extends the Windows 2000 platform to non-desktop devices. It also provides a platform for new mobile devices in the future, which may offer such features as voice recognition or wireless Instant Messaging services.
“We describe our .NET strategy as a scenario for you controlling your communications,”
“It’s how you get the information you want from the sources you want, on the device you want, when you want it. Mobile Information Server is central to providing the richest end-to-end services for this .NET scenario.”