Microsoft Lifts Lid On 'Blackberry Killer'

Later this year, the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant plans to offer software to "allow the kind of direct mobile messaging you all want," CEO Steve Ballmer told several thousand IT professionals and partners at the company's Tech Ed 2005 conference in Orlando, Fla.

"This is push e-mail--the kind we have not delivered and RIM has historically delivered [but] without additional management costs," Ballmer said. "It's enabled by Active Directory, and you can control policy on those mobile devices. It is included with Exchange." Well Exchange Server 2003, that is.

CRN first reported on the "BlackBerry killer" plans in April. The new capability Ballmer referred to requires Exchange Server 2003 Service Pack 2 and the Messaging and Security Feature Pack for Windows Mobile 5.0, Ballmer. Both updates are due this fall, Microsoft said

Walter Scrivens, IT director for Boca Raton, Fla. was interested in the push e-mail news. The city has about 100 Blackberrys for employees and connectivity now requires the Blackberrys redirector to run on their Exchange Server 2000 boxes.

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He said he has to evaluate the cost of updating to the latest Exchange Server 2003 to see if moving from RIM's Blackberry to Microsoft's solution makes sense.

In his keynote, Ballmer also seemed to signal a slip in the rollout of Windows 2003 Release 2, which he said would be out "within 12 months." Microsoft had previously indicated it would ship in the second half of 2005. In addition, Ballmer said Visual Studio 2005, code-named Whidbey, would come out late this year. Microsoft has said it would ship this summer, but many partners said they don't expect it to come out until late 2005 or 2006.

Also at Tech Ed, Ballmer and company briefly showed off Lenovo's new ThinkPad X41 Tablet, which endows the popular ThinkPad with tablet capabilities. Microsoft, too, demonstrated its just-announced "Maestro" realtime scorecarding server, due out later this year, and talked more about Visual Studio 2005 Tools for Office (VSTO), which will tie more deeply into Outlook and support Outlook managed code, the company said.

And following up news from last week, Microsoft talked up plans for new XML file formats for the upcoming Office 12. The company also is now shipping Windows Update Version 6.0.

Some attendees were underwhelmed by the show's content thus far. "It's disappointing that there's nothing really new. Not a dang thing," said one long-time Microsoft ISV partner in the east. "The Blackberry stuff is not at all surprising, and it's easy for them to go after that one clear market. They were saying last year this would be the coming out party for Visual Studio/SQL Server 2005 and that still hasn't happened. They're just making stuff up now."

This story was updated Monday afternoon with partner and customer quotes.