Device Management, Video Eyed for Handheld Systems

IT seeks tools to centrally manage mobile devices

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Improved wireless device management tools and IP-based video-over-wireless applications were among the technologies that attendees at last week's Mobile & Wireless World 2005 conference said they hope to see within the next few years.

The event, which was organized by Computerworld and attended by about 300 IT managers, featured more than 20 case study presentations by companies and government agencies. But discussions also focused on what will come next as more companies link database servers and applications such as e-mail and ERP systems to mobile devices.

Several IT managers said they're looking for the ability to use embedded tools to centrally manage handhelds in order to make sure that the devices are secure and running the designated applications.

Laura Amato, IT contracts manager at PMI Mortgage Insurance Co. in Walnut Creek, Calif., said such tools could provide an additional level of security on top of policies that PMI has set to restrict the type of devices and applications that can be used by its several hundred handheld users.

During a session at the conference, Mooly Eden, vice president and general manager of Intel Corp.'s mobile computing operations, said the chip maker plans to introduce its promised Active Management Technology (AMT) for wireless-enabled laptops in the next two years.

"We will try to hide a little IT manager in each notebook," Eden said jokingly. If a laptop is attacked by a virus, IT staffers will be able to use a wireless back channel to monitor the problem and send software patches, even if the PC is disconnected from the network, Eden said.

Rob Leach, Intel's worldwide marketing manager for mobile solutions, said AMT will first appear in desktop PCs, then in laptops with wireless adapters. Support for handhelds is further off but "is definitely envisioned," he said.

Focus on Management

Many companies are asking for more handheld management functions, such as the ability to remotely wipe a device clean of data if it is lost or falls into the wrong hands, said Christian Adans, group strategy director at Integrated Network Solutions, an integrator in Ottignies, Belgium.

Microsoft Corp. this month announced updates to its Exchange Server and Windows Mobile software that will include a device-wiping capability and other management features . Research In Motion Ltd. already provides such capabilities for its BlackBerry devices, but Adans noted that users have to install its BlackBerry Enterprise Server software to take advantage of them.

For new wireless applications, Eden said a dual-core CPU that Intel plans to release early next year as part of its Napa mobile computing platform will support voice over IP as well as videoconferencing among 10 end users.

Ernie Park, CIO at Maytag Corp. in Newton, Iowa, said he thinks videoconferencing for handhelds could be possible with increases in the bandwidth of wireless WANs. That would be "a tremendous application" to help improve communications with Maytag's 830 field service technicians and transmit technical drawings and other visual information via handhelds, Park said.

But during one session, John Stehman, an analyst at Robert Frances Group Inc. in Westport, Conn., asked how many of the 250 or so IT managers in the audience would be prepared to support video over handhelds in the next two years if it became available. Fewer than 10 people raised their hands.

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