Filling in the Gaps

Most products that let users employ a PDA for email access offer only basic send-and-receive capabilities. Most of these devices also let users access their Outlook Contacts lists (users can store their personal addresses on the PDA during synchronization) so that they have a directory to use when composing mail. But most users want or need the ability to send messages to someone in your organization's Global Address List (GAL)—someone who isn't in the user's Personal Address Book (PAB). Also, few solutions include an integrated way for users to view attachments. Even if users can view an attachment, they have no connected printer with which to print the attachment. Many users also need at least the ability to review the contents of attachments.

Several companies have devised solutions that help fill in these functional gaps. Such solutions include Onset Technology's METAmessage for Wireless, Equinox Solutions' ActiveNet Conversion Companion, and itrezzo's itrezzoAgent. Essentially, these solutions run an enhancement agent service on one of your LAN's servers; the service monitors an Exchange mailbox dedicated for the agent's use. When a user sends a message from a handheld to the agent's mailbox, the agent opens the message, then performs an action on the user's behalf (e.g., sends a copy of a mail message or attachment to a printer or fax machine, performs an address lookup against the GAL, converts an attachment to plaintext). Figure A shows the path that an attachment—for example, a Microsoft Word document—takes in this setup. The user's PDA receives a message with an attachment from the user's mailbox (Step 1). The user reads the message content, then forwards the message and attachment through the user's mailbox to the enhancement agent's mailbox (Steps 2 and 3). The agent converts the attached file to plaintext, then sends the plaintext back to the user's mailbox as a new email message (Step 4). The user then accesses the attachment content as a plaintext email message on the PDA (Step 5). Users can similarly use add-on utilities that send instructions in the form of an email message to the agent, directing it to search the GAL for a particular last name. The agent service then replies with a message that lists the email address and phone number of all the people with that name in the corporate GAL.

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