Microsoft targets Blackberry with new mobile server app

Posted by Humphrey Cheung

San Francisco (CA) – Microsoft has announced a new server application that will manage mobile phones much like corporate laptops.  CEO Steve Ballmer made the announcement during his keynote speech at the CTIA convention in San Francisco and Microsoft’s mobile strategy becomes very clear.

Windows Mobile devices and phones have been around for several years.  So far millions of Microsoft-enabled phones have been sold, but the numbers are miniscule when compared to the more than one billion handsets sold each year.  Microsoft itself predicts that just 20 million Windows Mobile phones will sell in 2007.

So far there hasn’t been an application that manages Windows Mobile phones and corporate buyers have often left administration to the employees themselves.  However, this new application called System Center Mobile Device Manager (dear god that is a horrible name) promises to give a central corporate console for managing phones and treats phones much like laptops.

The software will set up a phone’s username, password and email account information through the network.  Afterwards Virtual private networks (VPN) between phones and corporate networks can be implemented and there’s even a remote kill command for lost or stolen phones.

It’s clear that Microsoft is aiming the new application at Blackberry, a company that has been selling the same type of management software for its BlackBerry phones for more than seven years now.  The company’s strategy has apparently been to get people and companies used to having Windows Mobile phones around and then incrementally upgrading the platform’s capabilities much like how Operating Systems get upgrades and Service Packs.  The upcoming server platform could provide a turning point by giving IT managers a decent management product.

System Center Mobile Device Manager should be available in the first half of 2008 and no price has been specified.