Last week, Microsoft released a beta version of Outlook Mobile Manager (OMM). I'll outline what OMM means for Exchange and Outlook users and how Microsoft's Mobile Information Server (MIS) fits into the picture.

To be frank, OMM is not really rocket science when it comes to new technology. In fact, vendors such as RIM (Blackberry) and Fenestrae (MDS) have been providing this functionality for some time. Using a desktop redirector, OMM forwards Outlook information, such as email, calendar, and reminder information, to your mobile device via SMTP. For example, I have a GSM-based Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) phone that can receive text messages (via my provider's Short Message Service —SMS—facility) and WAP-based Internet browsing (via my provider's Phone.com WAP facility). I can use OMM to receive a daily update of my appointments, prioritized email, and reminders. I simply add the Outlook OMM add-on to my desktop and set up my rules and priorities to receive items on my device. I used to have a RIM Blackberry device that gave me almost identical functionality (I got rid of it because I hated being that available). Standalone OMM communication is one-way (also known as "push" capability), which means that I can get email messages forwarded to my phone but I can't directly reply (I can use my provider's SMS or WAP service to accomplish this, however). OMM also lets you set up multiple profiles (up to four) for scenarios such as work, home, and vacation, and the use of rules lets you control notifications and email prioritization, delivery intervals, and forwarding options.

To get the "whole enchilada" of OMM functionality, you need MIS (formerly known as Airstream). MIS greatly extends OMM functionality as long as your wireless provider has certain capabilities. At a minimum, your wireless provider needs a browse facility such as WAP to extend the OMM functionality to a two-way communication capability. Microsoft's preference, of course, is for corporations and wireless carriers to deploy MIS and provide an end-to-end path for the information stream from Exchange Server or other Microsoft .NET applications to your device. With MIS, you don't need a desktop redirector to get your notifications (push), and you get extended functionality that lets you leverage carrier and corporate-based MIS servers to access your organization's intranet (known as browse capability). MIS also lets you secure messages and content (via methods such as Secure Sockets Layer—SSL) and provides message-formatting capabilities to enable a wide variety of mobile devices. You also get full desktop functionality, including the ability to browse, reply, forward, and compose email on any text-enabled device with some form of a browser (whether WAP or Microsoft Mobile Explorer-based). When Microsoft delivers its Stinger smart phone, even more functionality will be possible with the combination of OMM and MIS.

Both OMM and MIS are available now in beta form. If you have a phone or wireless device with text messaging capability, download OMM and try it out. If you like what you see, take a further look at MIS, and see how it can mobility-enable your organization's applications and data. Check Microsoft's Web site for more information about OMM and MIS.