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Microsoft pushes further into wireless e-mail

Users mixed on benefits of switching to Windows Mobile 5.0

February 15, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Microsoft Corp. further extended its reach into wireless push e-mail technology this week by naming four carriers and four new Windows Mobile-based smart phones and handhelds that will support its Direct Push technology.
The carriers all said in the announcement from the 3GSM World Conference 2006 in Barcelona that they will provide free upgrades to devices running Windows Mobile 5.0 with Messaging and Security Feature Pack (MSFP) by Microsoft to enable the Direct Push functionality.
Reacting to the announcement today, several business users and IT managers of wireless e-mail from Research In Motion Ltd., said they welcomed the progress that Microsoft has made into wireless e-mail, given NTP Inc.'s ongoing patent lawsuit against RIM's BlackBerry wireless e-mail service (see "BlackBerry FAQ: What you need to know").
But users and analysts also said Windows Mobile 5.0 needs to be improved to be widely adopted by end users.
John Halamka, CIO at Caregroup Healthcare System in Boston, supports 500 RIM users and has rigorously tested a Palm Inc. Treo 700w, but has found it wanting when compared to the BlackBerry.
"Direct Push is good, but my experience with all Microsoft mobile technologies is that they are not as easy to use as BlackBerry," he said. RIM's BlackBerry Enterprise Server with Exchange is "already seamless and highly reliable," he said. Yet he called the Microsoft mobile client "clunky."
Emcor Group Inc., a construction and building services company in Norwalk, Conn., has about 500 RIM users and deploys Lotus Notes and Lotus Domino server to 9,000 users, so Direct Push from Microsoft holds no interest, said Emcor CIO Joe Puglisi.
"We can't justify a total change in architecture just for remote mail," he said.
However, an IT manager who supports 220 attorneys and legal staff who use BlackBerry said the Microsoft advances are encouraging.
"Microsoft's entry into any technology arena ought to seriously scare competitors in that space," said Frank Gillman, director of technology at Allen Matkins LLP, a law firm in Los Angeles. "Companies heavily invested in the Microsoft Exchange environment will see this as a viable alternative for wireless e-mail. We would too."
John Starkweather, group product manager at Microsoft, said in a telephone interview yesterday that the advent of wireless e-mail via Exchange Server 2003 Service Pack 2 and Windows Mobile 5.0 devices would vastly increase access to wireless e-mail.
He said there are potentially tens of millions of business users, compared with 8 million to 10 million who are using systems from RIM, Good Technology Inc. and others.
Technologies from RIM and others often require an additional and costly e-mail server, Starkweather



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