Microsoft has scheduled its release of Mobile Information Server for the first half of 2001. Mobile Information Server will enable mobile devices to access corporate Windows and Web-based applications. One of Mobile Information Server’s basic functions will be providing access to Microsoft Exchange 2000 Server and Windows 2000 Active Directory (AD).

If you’re wondering why Microsoft is so late in developing a wireless solution, the short answer is that it isn’t. By proxy, Microsoft has been in the thick of things for a while. The foundation of Mobile Information Server is built on Wireless Knowledge’s Workstyle Server. This fact should come as no surprise because Wireless Knowledge developed from a partnership between Microsoft and QUALCOMM. Apparently, Microsoft saw the potential of wireless solutions and decided the development of a product would be best undertaken by a smaller entity that had the dexterity to adapt and grow in the rapidly changing wireless arena. By letting Wireless Knowledge blaze the trail, promoting wireless technology and developing a viable solution, Microsoft preempted its own presence in the wireless market. Microsoft can now benefit from the effort spent developing Workstyle Server by incorporating that technology into Mobile Information Server.

To further secure the customer base that Wireless Knowledge has established, Microsoft is offering a free client-license upgrade to Mobile Information Server for organizations that have already purchased Wireless Knowledge’s solution. Workstyle Server will slowly fade, but Wireless Knowledge’s technical expertise will continue to develop and the company will consult for businesses that want to wirelessly enable their applications.

The implications of this situation for the wireless market are apparent. Startups will be hard-pressed to compete with the 400-pound gorilla that is Microsoft. Nonetheless, a core of well-funded software developers with technologically sound wireless solutions is in a position to give Mobile Information Server ample competition that will ultimately benefit end users.