Comparison: Microsoft Active Sync vs Verizon’s Wireless Sync for mobile devices, get the SMS out!

From Matt Hester’s WebLog…

I just wanted to share recent customer question I received from Bob.The story was sparked by a new addition to my technology family.Thanks to Harold Wong, I now have a new HTC Wizard, more importantly it has the new Mobile 5 bits and the security feature pack on it.So I can get direct push of my email without using SMS messaging.Very cool stuff.

The reason I mention this is that currently my team are doing live sessions on Exchange 2003 SP2 and we are discussing the new direct push technology for mobile 5 devices.There has been some confusion on this so I would recommend that you check out Harold’s blog on Mobile 5 and the MSFP:

Back to my point I had one of my event attendees, Bob asked me this:
How does Verizon’s wireless-sync workgroup software work in comparison to Microsoft’s Active-sync with Mobile 5 devices?

Here is the answer (BTW, if I misstate the Verizon Technology please comment):

Verizon Wireless Sync (based on what I read here):

Mail comes into your Exchange Server is sends it to the Client.Then the Client, using their wireless sync software sends an IP notification and pushes the email to the device via IP.By installing Verizon’s Wireless Sync on your desktop PC, as long as your PC is left on and in a condition to receive email, you’ll get new emails, calendar, contact, and task information sent to your mobile device whenever you’re out of the office. (according to the web site).This is very good that it does not use SMS, however there are two flags that are raised for me:

  1. How long will this take?.The email goes from the server, then it has to go to the client then to the device.
  2. What if the PC is turned off?Then this solution, from what I have read will not work.In my, opinion I do not like that but more importantly this is a key difference between Active Sync and Verizon’s solution.The difference is that Active Sync is connecting directly to the server, and it does not have the additional hop to the PC.

Microsoft Active Sync with Mobile 5 and Direct push:
Whether you are Mobile 5 or not the basic premise is the same.Mail comes into Exchange, then via Active Sync, based on schedule (more on that in a second) the device will download email, contacts…etc.The technological difference here comes down to what software you have on the device, and they really only concern here is when the devices are configured as always up to date:

  1. Without Mobile 5.0 and the Security Pack (uses SMS and always up-to-date):
    With always up to date turned on when the message comes into Exchange Server, exchange sends a hidden SMS text message down to the device to “wake” the device up and then the device runs active sync.The main issue with this technology as designed is the SMS messages which cost .05 to .10 cents a transaction.To avoid this charge and get a similar feel to getting email, configure the schedule sync to occur automatically every 5 minuets.I have done this, although not ideal, it is quite effective for getting email, not always immediate but 5 minutes is not that bad of a lag and I would probably compare it to the lag you may see in Verizon’s solution.
  2. With Mobile 5.0 and the Security Pack (uses IP and Direct Push):
    The only difference between the above solution and this one is instead of a SMS message Exchange sends a direct IP packet to the device andnot a SMS message.(BTW this is called Direct Push not always up to date; bottom line is the same email gets to the device. This wakes the device up and we get email.This works with any standard data planand does not incur any additional cost above and beyond your data plan, presuming you have enough each month.

Even though the SMS is a huge draw back, the fantastic thing about Microsoft Exchange is the configuration here is very straight forward.If you have OWA setup, this is about all you need to get Active Sync on the devices to work (the client access guide listed below outlines the steps needed to fully configure this).

To learn more about how Exchange does this look at the client access guide:

Bottom line: In my opinion.Today, if you are using Exchange as your email server I think you can get a very similar experience with Active Synch and a 5 minute schedule synch vs. Verizon’s synch software with out having to leave a pc on and connected to the network.Not to mention you do not have load any additional software.More importantly when Mobile 5 devices with the MSFP are more widely released you are poised to take advantage of the new software almost immediately.


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