Microsoft is offering smaller businesses the same kind of Windows Mobile push services that enterprises get with new versions of its server software, expected to be launched on Wednesday.
In addition, as part of a promotion, Microsoft and Palm are giving away a new Palm Treo Pro to businesses that buy one of the new servers and four of the phones. The Palm Treo Pro retails for US$549 and is not locked to a particular operator.
The two new server products, the Windows Small Business Server 2008 and Windows Essential Business Server 2008, include Exchange 2007 SP2, the latest version of Microsoft's e-mail software. Combined with Windows Mobile 6.1, the Exchange software can push out e-mail to Windows Mobile phones.
End-users can receive full HTML e-mails, attached photos and Office documents, including Excel spreadsheets. In addition, calendar and contact items are synched automatically over the air. These are the same capabilities that enterprises get with the latest Exchange release.
The server products are available now and will ship with the push e-mail capabilities turned on by default to make life easier for smaller businesses, said Augusto Valdez, a senior marketing manager for Windows Mobile. For enterprises, Exchange 2007 ships with the Windows Mobile features turned off because larger companies prefer to configure those services themselves, he said.
"In small and medium businesses the availability of resources is scarce, so it's important to provide solutions without a lot of human intervention," he said.
The Palm Treo Pro promotion, which is available in most countries, is evidence of how important the SMB market is for Microsoft, Valdez said. Microsoft has been increasing its investments in products for that market and doing more integration among Microsoft products for SMBs, he said.
Microsoft uses a similar sales pitch as it does for enterprises to explain why SMBs might want to choose Windows Mobile products over the BlackBerry. "We provide a cohesive solution that allows small and medium businesses to get mobility solutions without the need to change their environment or add additional servers," Valdez said. In contrast, companies that want to manage their own BlackBerry users must buy the BlackBerry Enterprise Server, which works in conjunction with Exchange or Lotus Notes.
But bundling the mobile services into Exchange doesn't seem to be enticing customers from Research In Motion, which makes the BlackBerry. Microsoft slipped behind RIM among smartphone OS developers in the third quarter, according to research from Canalys.
While Microsoft grew its share of the market to 13.6 percent in the third quarter, from 12.2 in the same quarter last year, RIM did better. Its share climbed to 15.2 percent, from 10.6 percent in the third quarter a year ago, Canalys said.
Both were surpassed by newcomer Apple, however, whose iPhone had 17.3 percent of the smartphone market by operating system in the third quarter.