Microsoft has released its Exchange Server 2003 Service Pack 2, which includes new email security and beefed-up mailbox storage, as well as “significantly improved” support for mobile messaging. With this new offering, the company is aiming to make a real name for itself in the mobile market and better compete with rivals such as Research in Motion.
The update also addresses dozens of glitches, including the quite serious problem of email recipients being able to view the blind carbon-copy field of an email if it was forwarded as an embedded attachment.
With SP2, Microsoft hopes to make a dent in the mobile market. SP2 enables, for the first time from Microsoft, direct push technology to Windows Mobile 5.0, whereby email, contacts, tasks and calendar are pushed and synchronized directly between the server and the device.
Previously, users relied on short message service for new email notification and other Outlook actions. By enabling direct push, Microsoft would better compete with Research in Motion, maker of the popular wireless BlackBerry device.
Microsoft claimed that with Mobile 5.0 and SP2, enterprises can manage devices from 42 different makers with one software platform and server infrastructure.
Microsoft also touted SP2 as providing added mobile security, such as being able to set password lengths and automatic locking of the device after a certain number of incorrect password attempts (the device’s memory also would be erased and set to factory settings). Another notable feature is remote mobile wipe, which enables an administrator to clear a lost device’s memory and setting.
SP2 also enables a couple of other handy features on Mobile 5.0, such as being able to use the Global Address List over the air.
However, the SP2 release came one day before flaws in its newest mobile software ActiveSync 4.0 came to light. Microsoft has confirmed that devices running the software were not able to connect to a PC via a USB connection in some cases.
Microsoft said that in many cases interoperability issues with desktop firewall or applications that manage network traffic might be the cause. These applications appear to conflict with the TCP traffic between a device and the PC. The problem showed up on devices based on its Mobile 5.0 OS, including those from Dell, HP, iMate and Sprint.
Microsoft said it would update ActiveSync in late November, and posted a fix on its website.
The earliest Windows Mobile 5.0-enabled devices that support new SP2 mobile to hit the market would be Palm’s Treo and Motorola’s Q Mobile 5.0 devices, both slated for release in early 2006.
Microsoft claimed, in a statement, that its customer Hewlett-Packard plans to roll out SP2 across the company’s mobile environment in the near future. Another Microsoft customer, Lifetime Products, also claimed that with SP2 its mobile workers gained an extra half hour of productivity a day due to the enhancements, including direct push.
SP2 also promises more security. Notably, it includes support for the SenderID framework, an Exchange Instant Message Filter update that verifies that the actual server Internet address for email by comparing it against the known address of the domain it claims to originate from, in order to ward off spoofing attacks. The offering would rival DomainKeys, which has support from Cisco Systems and Yahoo.