If you have not heard, Windows Mobile 5.0 (the OS formerly known as “Magneto”) was announced today at MEDC (Mobile Embedded and Developers Conference). Lots of great stuff for end users and developers. If you are looking for information, we’ve posted a lot at BostonPocketPC.com.
Also announced today was the release of ActiveSync 4. Now, before you go out and install this, there is something very important you need to know. ActiveSync 4 does not include WiFi synchronization (except with Exchange Server). If you use this functionality and need it, please continue using ActiveSync 3.8.
The immediate backlash from this has been quite harsh. I am concerned, however, that the whole story regarding the removal of this feature has not been told thus far. So, I feel it is important to me to post something that I feel is immensely important here and now for posterity's sake.
As I just mentioned, ActiveSync 4.0 does *not* include WiFi synchronization. This was initially brought to all of the Mobile Device and .NET Compact Framework MVPs attention a couple of months ago. Also clearly stated at that time was the reason.
WiFi ActiveSync has never been secure. While this has essentially just "slipped by" for quite a while, the recent emphasis by Microsoft on security across all product lines made this an issue. When it was realized that a serious security hole existed, the problem then became what it would take to close that hole. Unfortunately, quite a bit of work needs to be performed.
In order to Windows Mobile 5.0 to ship, ActiveSync 4 needed to ship at the same time. Some of the synchronization enhancements required an update that is included within ActiveSync 4 (AS 4 is backward-compatible with older devices, though) The decisions, therefore, became quite limited. Either:
1) Remove WiFi synchronization from ActiveSync for now, allowing for the product to ship on time;
2) Delay release of both Windows Mobile 5.0 and ActiveSync 4.
The final decision was the former of the options.
I can say that the entire body of Mobile Devices AND .NET Compact Framework MVPs were very troubled by the removal of WiFi synchronization. The result of this is that Microsoft is looking at what would need to be done to bring WiFi synchronization back AND alleviate the security issues.
Why am I stating all of this here? For a couple of reasons -
1) Microsoft did give some people a "heads up" on this issue. In addition to MVPs, developers participating in beta testing for Windows Mobile 5.0 development were made aware of this issue. I want to be perfectly clear about this - people were informed.
2) A number of people expressed concerns over this issue, and Microsoft listened. Although the short-term solution was undesirable, there is no permanence. Again - people were informed.
3) All - I cannot emphasize this enough - ALL of the people who were involved in the discussions were made clearly aware of the reasons why this decision was made. Any comments to the effect of "I can't understand why this happened" are simply not true. Period – end of discussion.
Listen - I find this whole thing a hard pill to swallow, too. But I refuse to run from the issue and act like it was done in utter silence and without explanation. While I might not agree with the result, I can accept the fact that there was a valid reason for it, and I am appreciative in the fact that it was explained to me. I also can't sit by and let anyone who knows this to give any impression to the contrary.
Here’s to hoping that the solution to the ActiveSync 4 WiFi security problem is resolved sooner rather than later, and that those you use this (myself included) will have a restored and secure experience moving forward.