SCMDM 2008: Microsoft goes after Mobile Management

Mobile devices for the Windows IT pro has always been a bit of a sore spot for me. I have spent a lot of time using Windows Mobile devices (since Pocket PC 2002) and let’s face it we have been getting our butts handed to us for a long time. Microsoft’s newest addition to the System Centers Management family changes that drastically. Systems Center Mobile Device Manager 2008 (SCMDM 2008) gives the IT manager the ability to manage Windows Mobile devices, secure those devices and most importantly work mobile. Blackberry has long been the Enterprise class mobile device. Mainly due to lack of manageability of Windows Mobile devices, even with the introduction of remote sync using a cellular or wireless connection. Management of the device was still lacking. Blackberry boasts over 400 settings that can be centrally managed by the Blackberry enterprise server, compared to the few dozen settings (mostly attached to email management) on Windows Mobile. In SCMDM 2008 first and foremost brings the device into the Windows network. Featuring Active Directory integration and group policy integration, Windows Mobile devices are now more manageable. The client is built into the mobile device so there is not a lot of setup time for IT. Enrollment is a matter of 4 steps:

  • Administrator or user invokes enrollment by entering the one-time PIN (OTP).
  • User runs the Enterprise Activation wizard on the device
  • Web service validates OTP and passes session to the network service
  • Device is then joined to the domain and group policy is applied

Group policy can control over 130 features on the Windows Mobile device including Bluetooth, enabling/disabling cameras, allow/disallow applications, remote wipe and even encrypt files on the devices and memory cards. SCMDM allows Admins to distribute software and updates (using WSUS) remotely. The 130 policies are only the start SCMDM allows you to create custom policies to fit the needs of the organization. The mobile optimized VPN solution comes with session persistence (Citrix users would be familiar with this technology) and fast recovery. This allows your device to effectively time-out in the case of a signal loss, rather than completely wipe away anything you were doing. I would love to see a future version which has full cross-platform capabilities. One of the core arguments of any company I have been with is the preference of mobile device, in the past that meant Blackberry, Palm or Windows Mobile. These days the payers include the iPhone and the Google G1. SCMDM 2008 is a step in the right direction in the war for the mobile worker. Well at least us Microsoft guys have a real weapon to fight with, too early to tell who will win this one I think!

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