Microsoft Corp. this week announced the latest version of its wireless middleware, which has improvements over the first version but still offers access only to Microsoft applications.
Mobile Information Server 2002 includes over-the-air server synchronization for Pocket PC devices and more security features than the previous version.
But in terms of applications, MIS 2002 does not support anything more than Version 1.0 did; although the server supports myriad wireless devices, those devices can only access Microsoft Exchange applications.
"Going forward, were planning a lot more integration between other .Net servers and Mobile Information Servers," said Juha Christiansen, vice president of mobility for Microsoft, in Redmond, Wash.
But integration with non-Microsoft applications is another story. If there is going to be access to anything other than Exchange -- Lotus Development Corp.s Notes, for example -- it will be up to a third party to make that happen, Christiansen said.
"If Lotus wants to create a connector between Lotus and MIS, they could easily do that," he said. "But youre probably not going to find Microsoft doing Notes – theyre a competitor."
There is wireless middleware available, however, that does support both Notes and Exchange. The most notable is the Workstyle Server from Wireless Knowledge Inc., a company that Microsoft and Qualcomm Inc. launched more than a year before Microsoft came out with MIS.
In addition to the new version of MIS, Microsoft also announced a relationship with MobileSys Inc. to encourage enterprises to use both MIS and the MobileSys Global data network. MobileSys has its own wireless data network that provides a secure shortcut from enterprise data to myriad wireless carriers from myriad wireless devices.
"Trying to find one vendor that would talk to all the different carriers was the hard part," said Ben Graham, manager of network engineering for the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, in Atlanta, which is using both MIS 2002 and the MobileSys network.
Wireless middleware providers, including Microsoft and Wireless Knowledge, have struggled to market their software to both carriers and enterprise customers. MobileSys sees itself as a bridge between the two.
"What MobileSys does is provide a single point of integration to wireless carriers all over the world, and when you couple this with the MIS solution, you essentially have an instant-on capability," said Dave David Coelho, president and CEO of MobileSys, in Mountain View, Calif. "We know of many large corporations who have attempted to build relationships with carriers, and in many cases they have given up."
Graham said MobileSys won points just for being there to deal with the carriers.
"MobileSys was always there 24-by-7 to resolve the problems," he said. "Thats getting to be a rare thing these days."
Currently MARTA is using the wireless network and middleware to give its employees access to the Exchange Server. But future plans include services that will enable passengers to get real-time transportation information on their wireless devices. Much of this depends on the carriers, he said, explaining that he has been waiting for so-called next-generation networks to be deployed.
"Were waiting on the carriers," Graham said. "Until the carriers put the infrastructure in, its all vaporware. We beat Microsoft up about vaporware all the time, but often were just waiting for the carriers."