Microsoft's Ballmer Unveils Mobile Device Management Tool

In a keynote speech at CTIA Wireless in San Francisco, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer unveiled System Center Mobile Device Manager 2008, which simplifies the task of managing and provisioning devices and lets users access critical enterprise applications behind the firewall.

With hooks for Active Directory and group policy for mobile devices, Mobile Device Manager is aimed at speeding up the often laborious process of disabling lost devices and provisioning new ones, Ballmer said.

After logging into Active Directory and receiving a one-time password to activate the new device, the user can have their company-defined policies pushed to their device over the cellular network.

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Mobile Device Manager also includes a mobile virtual private network feature that enables secure access to enterprise resources behind the firewall, and serves as a secure bridge to line-of-business applications like CRM and expense reports, according to Ballmer.

"We're creating a software package of applications to be ready for deployment on mobiles, the same way as they are with desktops," said Ballmer.

Noting that Microsoft this year expects to sell 20 million Windows Mobile devices with the aid of its partners, Ballmer said cellular networks are a growing part of the vendor's software + service strategy.

People are increasingly using mobile devices for businesses as well as entertainment, and Microsoft's plan is to get its software on phones that are general purpose devices applicable to work and play, Ballmer said.

Microsoft has a fairly expansive view of the mobile space, and we understand that people need phones that allow them to 'context-switch' between these two worlds, Ballmer said.

"We have to meld two models of computing into one, and that's an innovation challenge," he said.