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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

AUTD: An earlier method of Push Mail by Microsoft

The push mail that this guide focuses upon is implemented using a Windows Mobile 5.0 device with the Messaging and Security Feature Pack (MSFP) together with a Microsoft Exchange 2003 SP2 server. For additional information about whether you have the minimum requirements, please refer to the pre-requisite stated in the next section of this guide.

In this section however, we shall touch a little on Always-Up-To-Date (AUTD), which is the name of Microsoft’s earlier (and initial) attempt at rolling-out Push Mail. AUTD is the only option for Windows Mobile 2003 and Windows Mobile 2003 SE devices for Push Mail. AUTD is also the only Push Mail option on the server side for vanilla Exchange 2003. Exchange 2003 SP2 supports both AUTD and Direct Push.

Below are two screenshots of the Microsoft Exchange 2003 and Microsoft Exchange 2003 SP2 server-side configuration page.

Why write about an earlier and obsolete variant of Push Mail, you ask? Sadly, there has much confusion over the various admittedly confusing terminologies and options available. Surfing through various on-line forums, it is not uncommon to encounter users who are trying to implement POP3 polling or IMAP IDLE methods on their spanking new Windows Mobile 5 MSFP devices due to lack of an available “Short Messaging Service (SMS) gateway to implement Microsoft’s Push Mail solution”. Even when it comes to users knowledgeable about the mechanism of Always-Up-To-Date (AUTD), there is confusion over Direct Push being another variant of AUTD also using an SMS gateway – which cannot be further from the truth; the implementation of Direct Push is superior to and more elegant than AUTD.

Below is a simplified summary of the components necessary for either AUTD or Direct Push.

  • Server: Microsoft Exchange 2003
  • Device: Windows Mobile 2003/2003 SE or WM 5.0 without MSFP or AKU2
  • Requires SMS: Yes (If “When new items arrive” option is selected)
Direct Push
  • Server: Microsoft Exchange 2003 SP2
  • Device: Windows Mobile 5.0 with MSFP or AKU2 and up
  • Requires SMS: No
How it works is this: when a new message is delivered to an (Exchange) folder that has been configured for synchronization, an Exchange store event is generated in a user’s Exchange mailbox account. This event triggers an Email to be sent to a standard SMS Gateway. This SMS gateway will in turn generate a SMS control message to be sent to the user’s mobile device. This SMS control message is different from a regular SMS because it does not appear as an SMS message in the Inbox of your handheld device. Instead, upon receipt of such a control SMS, your Windows Mobile device will initiate synchronization with the Exchange Server without further intervention.

As mentioned above, because the sending of the notification to the handheld device is really converted from an Email to SMS via an SMS Gateway, an existing Internet connection or leased line from the Exchange 2003 server to the SMS gateway is all that is required. No further hardware is necessary.

Such an SMS Gateway is normally provisioned by your mobile phone provider. For example, a standard Email sent to your mobile number, e.g. will result in an SMS being sent to your mobile device. Hence, Telco support is necessary for this to work. If your mobile phone company does not offer such as service – either free or on a pay-per-sms-basis, then you are most probably out of luck!

(It is possible to use existing commercial or private SMS Gateways to forward the control SMS. However, this falls squarely outside the scope of this documentation.)