In the October 10 edition of Mobile & Wireless UPDATE, I wrote about Microsoft's plans for mobile device support in Systems Management Server (SMS) 2003, as well as the company's lack of planned support for older devices. Today, I'm happy to provide an alternative to SMS: Mobile Automation's just-announced Mobile Lifecycle Management Suite.

In 1997, former Symantec/Norton executive Doug Neal identified the need for managed mobility and founded Mobile Automation. In May 2002, the company announced its first Pocket PC enterprise support tool—Mobile Support Manager—which provides full-function remote control and online-chat capabilities that simplify Help desk support for Pocket PCs and other Windows CE-based devices. Mobile Automation has now announced a full suite of products. The Mobile Lifecycle Management Suite includes not only Help desk support but also asset discovery, security management (built around content that the Center for Internet Security provides), application deployment, self-healing configuration management, and (for laptops and notebooks) automated migration from Windows 2000 and Windows NT to Windows XP.

Mobile Automation's distinguishing feature is its wide range of client support. The suite supports notebook and laptop PCs running XP, Windows Me, and Windows 9x; Windows CE 2.x and 3.x devices (including Pocket PCs and Handheld PCs—H/PCs); Palm OS 2.x, 3.x, and 4.x devices (the company is testing support for Palm OS 5.0); and Research in Motion's (RIM's) BlackBerry. Not all functions are available on all devices. The security and migration features work only on notebook PCs. Palm OS devices don't support remote control, although they do support automatic application deployment, including deployment over Palm.NET for i705 and Palm VII-series devices. And BlackBerry devices support only wired asset discovery and software deployment.

The Mobile Lifecycle Management Suite isn't cheap: A server costs $9000, plus $75 per seat for handheld devices or $120 per seat for notebook PCs. However, the suite is comprehensive, cross-platform, and available today. And the company has a remarkably broad range of deployments, ranging from small companies with a few hundred seats to a recent Federal Express deal that's expected to cover 40,000 seats. Other customers include Alcatel, Bombardier, Ford Motor Company, the Seattle Police Department, and the US Patent and Trademark Office. For more information about Mobile Automation and its products, go to the following URL.
http://www.mobileautomation.com