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New mobile device management server hits Microsoft lineup

Microsoft this week added a management server for mobile devices that will allow IT shops to update devices on the fly.

Microsoft's System Center blitz continues with a new server that lets IT shops remotely manage mobile devices.

Mobile Device Manager 2008 is making its debut this week at the CTIA show in San Francisco. The server will give IT managers the ability to send software updates to Windows-supported phones and take inventory of such devices over the air. Users will also be able to hook into critical data securely though Mobile VPNs, said Microsoft.

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The idea is to give IT shops the ability to manage mobile devices as if they are a desktop or laptop, said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer during the show's keynote presentation.

That need is being driven by enterprises looking for ways to manage smartphones and PDAs as devices provisioned and managed by the corporation, versus personal devices managed by the users, said Andi Mann, an analyst with Enterprise Management Associates, a consulting firm in Boulder, Colo.

"There's a lot of exposure as far as risks that need to be managed in these devices," Mann said. "These devices have Word files, email, Java and Flash applications and even access to SaaS. So there's essentially a gap that has to be formally managed."

Mobile Device Manager 2008 is expected to be avaiable in the first half of 2008. AT&T Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., Motorola Inc. and Sprint Nextel Corp. also announced plans to build devices that support Mobile Device Manager.

Next month, Microsoft is expected to launch System Center Configuration Manager 2007 at TechEd IT Forum in Barcelona and possibly its new System Center help desk called Service Manager.

System Center Configuration Manager, the follow-up to Systems Management Server 2003, already has built-in mobile device management capabilities similar to those found in the new mobile device management server, such as remote patching and inventory.

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