Exchange Server 2003's Mobile & Wireless Features

In previous editions of Mobile & Wireless UPDATE, I've discussed Mobile Information Server (MIS) 2002 and MIS 2001. I've also commented on Microsoft's announcement last year that the company would discontinue its MIS product and roll many of the MIS features into the next version of Microsoft Exchange Server. The release of Exchange Server 2003 (formerly code-named Titanium) is drawing near, so now is the time to start talking about the new messaging server's mobile and wireless features.

Mobile and wireless application functionality typically breaks down into three primary categories:

  1. Data synchronization—Involves storing data locally on the device, then transmitting changes to and from the server.
  2. Data push—Involves pushing data to a mobile device, which would then alert the user.
  3. Data browse—Involves accessing data on a Web server similar to the way you use a typical Web application.

These three categories are important to the support of most device types, usage scenarios, and application functionality—and Exchange 2003 offers anywhere-anytime access in all three. Exchange 2003's mobile and wireless features include the following:

  • Server ActiveSync—This data-synchronization feature is enabled by default when you install Exchange 2003. You use Server ActiveSync for synchronizing email, calendar, and contacts with Pocket PC and Windows Smart Phone devices. Server ActiveSync offers several advanced features, including message truncation, which by default synchronizes only the first 0.5KB of each message to the device. If you want to view the entire message or download attachments, you must select "Mark for Download" in Microsoft Pocket Outlook on your Pocket PC or Windows Smart Phone device. Server ActiveSync requires the use of Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), so data is encrypted from Exchange to the device end-to-end. The advantage of using Server ActiveSync is that following synchronization, you can view and manipulate messages, calendar items, and contacts offline without needing an ongoing wireless connection.

  • Notification Services—This data-push feature (which isn't installed by default and requires a separate installation and configuration) permits similar push functionality to that of Research In Motion's (RIM's) BlackBerry devices. (BlackBerry devices have become popular because of their automatic delivery of new messages.) However, to enable full functionality, you need to ensure that devices have the appropriate client software. The advantage of notification functionality is that a notification-capable device can proactively alert you to new messages, calendar changes, and so on. (Otherwise, you see new messages only when you connect.) If the device doesn't natively support Exchange 2003 notifications, you can use a short message to trigger a Server ActiveSync session and download the most recent messages to the device.

  • Outlook Mobile Access (OMA) 2003—This data-browse feature is also installed by default in an Exchange 2003 installation. OMA, which requires ASP.NET on the Exchange server, lets you establish a real-time connection with Exchange from a browser-enabled wireless Internet device. The advantage of OMA is that it supports many non-Microsoft devices; also, because data doesn't reside locally on the device, physical security is enhanced. In addition to the devices that the MIS 2002 version of OMA supports, OMA 2003 supports iMode and Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) 2.0 devices.

Exchange 2003 is due for release in the second quarter of this year and is currently available in its beta 2 release. For more information about Exchange 2003, go to the first URL below. For more information about Exchange 2003's anywhere-anytime access, go to the second URL. See you next time.

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