Mobile device admin options leave IT shops wanting

Windows mobile device management products have strong features but don't address central management of multiple types of handhelds.

Microsoft's mobile device manager is great for keeping track of Windows Mobile devices, but like so many other competing platforms, it lacks the ability to centrally manage multiple types of handhelds.

Microsoft's System Center Mobile Device Manager 2008, which was introduced in October of last year, was released to manufacturing earlier this week.

Mobile Device Manager 2008 lets IT managers set and control policies using Active Directory and Group Policy.

The software also has remote wipe to erase data when an end user loses a device, a VPN connection with dual-factor authentication and remote software update capabilities. It can encrypt devices, control which applications users can access and offers inventory and reporting features, as well as role-based administration.

Some crucial features did not make an appearance in this release, such as the ability to lock down rather than erase the data in the event that the device is found by the user. And one glaring omission is the lack of support by Microsoft for devices other than Windows handhelds, said industry analyst Andi Mann.

Mann said he has no doubt that Mobile Device Manager 2008 will be popular in the same way as System Center Configuration manager and Operations Manager. But, although the tie-in to the System Center line is important, "where all the vendors fall down is multiple platform support," Mann said.

Microsoft does not mention direct support of non-Windows handheld devices, but it has formed a partnership with mobile services company Enterprise Mobile, which offers integration services between the Windows Mobile OS and other platforms.

Symantec (Altiris), LANDesk and Novell's mobile management products support Windows Mobile, Palm OS and RIM's BlackBerry. No vendor has the ability to support Apple iPhones, which are going to grow in popularity in enterprises, Mann said.

There is also Sybase's suite that supports Windows Mobile, Palm OS, Symbian, but not BlackBerry, and Computer Associates that solely supports BlackBerry.

IT shops do not have much choice in device selection at this point, however. For the most part right now, the choice is up to employees, with IT left to figure out how to support iPhones, Windows devices, BlackBerrys, Palms and others.

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