Hot on the heels of my how to upgrade to AKU2 article, I thought it would now be a good time to review the HTC Universal, but more importantly the changes the AKU2 firmware make.
There are a few reviews out on the Net for the device in general, so I will not go too in depth on that. I will, however, go into detail on the AKU advancements and the all important fixes that the new firmware brings.
Microsoft has released a new 'upgrade' to the Windows Mobile 2005 operating system that is now found on all of the new Windows Mobile device's on sale at the moment. What does this update bring us? Well, the obvious big change is the new 'Push email' abilities. This allows Exchange Server 2003SP2 to directly push new content (email, contacts, calendar, and tasks) to your device over the air. The other updates are dramatic improvements in device response, support for new and emerging technologies like Sim Access Profile (car kit support mainly, including Parrot's car kit's), Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP, this allows support for stereo Bluetooth headsets and devices), and other minor tweaks like SIM contacts being correctly displayed in Pocket Outlook.
So Push email, why all the buzz about it? Well, in America the Blackberry devices have taken off like wildfire. However, in Europe it has not been the same case. This is possibly due to the fact that SMS messaging (text) is so big in the European market and the extra 3rd party software and communications was deemed 'insecure' as it went onto the Blackberry network. So then, why will the Microsoft solution be better accepted? This is partly due to the fact that the Microsoft Exchange product is already used and accepted by most companies, and Microsoft, in a clever move, has put the whole server side technology into the latest service pack (SP2). This has two benefits to the end user. Microsoft does not need any Blackberry-style forwarding service (NOC) as the end customers' own server does the work and the client's email is deemed more secure as it sent encrypted over the air directly from the corporate centre.
So then how does it work?
- Exchange Service Pack 2 listens on ports 80 and 443 for incoming connections.
- The hand held device then initiates a HTTP request to the Exchange server, the client tells the server how long to continue watching the users folders for.
- The exchange server then monitors the folders (usually inbox, calendar, tasks, and contacts), if any changes occur then the server sends a reply to the client device telling it which folder has been changed or updated. The device then downloads those changes and re-requests the server to monitor for any changes.
- For a mail send, the device sends the change in the normal ActiveSync way to the Exchange server.
- The device can also search the Global Address Book from the exchange server over the air (type the name and press.)
- There are extended benefits of having the device 'check in', these are forcing of security policies, device data wiping, locking, and the ability to get a user up and running by just shipping him a vanilla device and syncing over the air.
This is different from the Blackberry-style of doing things.
- The Blackberry works by the Networks Operations Centre (NOC) sending a keep alive to the Blackberry device. This keeps the device 'on the air' and responsive to any changes, so not a lot difference there then. The big change, however, is the existence of the NOC.
- The users' actual mail comes into the corporate/user mailbox, and is then forwarded to the Blackberry NOC. The NOC then sends this forwarded copy onto the device.
- The reverse happens for a sent mail.
So, should you take the plunge and upgrade? The argument should actually be why should you not upgrade? There are a few slight changes. For example, the clock disappearing from the start bar on the Today screen as it has been replaced by the battery icon (but can be enabled so it shows in all non-Today applications). The active use of the GPRS network if Push email is enabled on the device (T-mobile have a £7.50 'all you can eat' plan for GPRS) then there is no real reason to not upgrade. Believe me, once you start to have always on email, you will not want to be without it.