Microsoft's push e-mail isn't really push?
#1  Alexander Turcic 06-09-2005, 04:11 AM
Is Microsoft trying to redefine the meaning of push e-mail? A few days ago the company's chief Steve Ballmer announced an Exchange Server feature pack to include "Direct Push Technology" - the delivery of e-mail to mobile devices without any action on the part of the user. At least one analyst, Yankee Group's John Jackson, has reason to doubt that Microsoft's new push email technology is really push at all.

In the case of Windows Mobile, the user's device checks back with the server at specified intervals to receive any pending e-mail deliveries. I digged a bit further and found this technical explanation from the Microsoft Exchange team:

The [mobile] device issues an HTTP request to Exchange, which asks Exchange to report any changes that occur in the mailbox of the requesting user within a specified time limit. The URL of this HTTP request is the same as that of other AirSync commands ("/Microsoft-Server-ActiveSync") with some differing query string parameters. The body of the HTTP request allows the client to specify those folders that Exchange should monitor for changes. Typically, these will be the Inbox, Calendar, Contacts, and Tasks folders. Upon receiving this request, Exchange will monitor the specified folders until either the time limit expires or a change (such as the arrival of a piece of email) occurs in one of those folders, whichever comes first. Exchange will then issue a response to this request that notes in which folders the changes occurred. Of course, this will be empty if the time limit elapsed before any changes occurred. Upon receiving an empty response, the device simply re-issues the request. This loop of issuing a request for change notifications, receiving an empty response, and re-issuing the request for change notifications is called "the heartbeat." Upon receiving a non-empty response, the device issues a synchronization request against each folder in the response. When those complete, it re-issues the request for change notifications.
In the case of RIM (Blackberry), on the other hand, the network server is continually checking with the device -- which remains essentially inactive -- to see where it is. Obviously RIM's approach is less battery-intensive and faster to respond to new incoming e-mail since it is only reacting when the server initiates a connection.

[via News Factor and BBHub]

#2  hacker 06-09-2005, 09:36 AM
Quote Alexander
In the case of Windows Mobile, the user's device checks back with the server at specified intervals to receive any pending e-mail deliveries.
Oh, you mean Microsoft rediscovered fetchmail? It does exactly this (well, without using the braindead HTTP request in the clear).

Boy, I'm amazed that they keep innovating like this!

#3  doctorow 06-09-2005, 09:49 AM

How stupid do they think we are? RIM should sue them for misusing the label "push e-mail"!

#4  hacker 06-09-2005, 10:03 AM
Ahem... ALL email is "push email". Its just a buzzword to mislead customers into believing they have some new technology that differentiates their device from other vendor's devices.

There's a reason why mail components are called MTA and MDA.

More details here..

#5  doctorow 06-09-2005, 10:31 AM
Not really just a buzz word. It is specifically referring to the idea of having e-mails that have been received by a desktop or server mail system automatically transmitted to a PDA, laptop or other portable device.

#6  rmeister0 06-09-2005, 10:48 AM
This is no different than how Outlook communicates with Exchange server.

Having to support 6 frekin' Blackberry users in my enterprise, I am really happy about this. The Blackberry Integration server is one of the worst architected pieces of crap I've ever had the misfortune of being inflicted upon me. I'd rather have a device that could communicate directly with the server.

#7  doctorow 06-11-2005, 07:41 AM
Looks like Ed Hardy from Brighthand liked your article, Alex:

Windows Mobile's Upcoming Email System Isn't Exactly Push... at least some credits would have been appropriate, don't you think? He is even pointing to the Microsoft Exchange team blog like you did.

Oh well....

#8  Alexander Turcic 06-11-2005, 07:47 AM
Hmm that's bad yeah. I didn't invent the article either, which is why I gave partial credits to News Factor and BBHub.

Perhaps they just forgot?

#9  vadim 06-21-2005, 11:45 PM
Well, it is well known, I guess, that Microsoft is much better at selling than at building. Apparently (and unfortunately), the US marketing community adopted the ancient Phoenicians maxim: "Either sell or be truthfull..." .
That is not to say that the quoted article is very clear by itself. The technology described there supposedly refers to upcoming Exchange SP2 but actually does not specify in which way it is different from the current implementation of ActiveSync. Nor does it tell exactly about this part where the device PERIODICALLY requesting the server to monitor new changes (how much it is different then from the scheduled syncs?). Besides, according to Microsoft in the current setup the server is initiating the sync by first sending notification to the device about new changes and only THEN the device initiate the sync. That makes sense. Then what's all this about device all the time sending requests to the server???? Whatever. It is also typical for Microsoft documentation.
And to those who as one of the members who posted a little bit earlier about Blackberry server been a nightmare I just wanted to let know - do not keep a very high hopes for ActiveSync. I have tested somewhat similar to Blackberry GoodLink and then ActiveSync (on Exchange 2003). It took me ~3hrs to set up and make to work and GoodLink - very detailed and simple documentation, works flowlessly (plus some nice features). I still after four days can not make ActiveSync work. That is manual and scheduled sync from device works fine (though took me some time to figure it all out) but this famous "push" update which is not really "push" just would not work. Period. Actually, seems like it worked in the beginning and then just stopped, which makes it even worse. Documentation is poor and superficial and try to get troubleshooting info. Good luck with that. ActiveSync troubleshooting tool gives me a message "could not access CDO.Message" when I'm sending control message. Very informative! Either the tool or the ActiveSync is a crap (more likely its a tool problem - after I run it I have to restart IIS to be able to sync at all, even manually!). And what about UNDOCUMENTED feature - UP-To-Date notification works only 12.5 hrs after any manual sync! If you do not sync manually from the device after that you get no notification! And it seems it is by design.
So do not tell me how ActiveSync will compete with something like GoodLink. You will loose more on air time charges and headaches than on GoodLink license fee by going with ActiveSync. Push it or pull it.

#10  Colin Dunstan 06-22-2005, 06:12 AM
If you are right, vadim, looks like we are still a long time away from a suitable e-mail push technology ;( Sniff.

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