Improved wireless device management tools and IP-based video-over-wireless applications were among the technologies that IT managers want to see within the next few years.

IT managers are looking for the ability to use embedded tools to centrally manage handhelds in order to make sure that the devices are secure and running the designated applications. This consensus emerged at Computerworld's Mobile & Wireless World 2005 conference this summer, which was attended by about 300 IT managers.

Discussions focused on what will come next as more companies link database servers and applications such as e-mail and ERP systems to mobile devices.

Laura Amato, IT contracts manager at PMI Mortgage Insurance in Walnut Creek, California, said such tools could provide an additional level of security on top of policies that PMI has set to restrict the type of devices and applications that can be used by its several hundred handheld users.

Management coming from Intelt
Intel plans to introduce its promised Active Management Technology (AMT) for wireless-enabled laptops in the next two years, according to Mooly Eden, vice president and general manager of the chip maker's mobile computing operations.

"We will try to hide a little IT manager in each notebook," Eden said jokingly. If a laptop is attacked by a virus, IT staffers will be able to use a wireless back channel to monitor the problem and send software patches, even if the PC is disconnected from the network, Eden said.

Rob Leach, Intel's worldwide marketing manager for mobile solutions, said AMT will first appear in desktop PCs, then in laptops with wireless adapters. Support for handhelds is further off but "is definitely envisioned," he said.

Focus on Management
Many companies are asking for more handheld management functions, such as the ability to remotely wipe a device clean of data if it is lost or falls into the wrong hands, said Christian Adans, group strategy director at Integrated Network Solutions, an integrator in Belgium.

Microsoft has announced updates to its Exchange Server and Windows Mobile software that will include a device-wiping capability and other management features. Research In Motion already provides such capabilities for its BlackBerry devices, but Adans noted that users have to install its BlackBerry Enterprise Server software to take advantage of them.

For new wireless applications, Eden said a dual-core CPU that Intel plans to release early next year as part of its Napa mobile computing platform will support voice over IP as well as videoconferencing among 10 end users.

Handhelds do video?
Videoconferencing for handhelds could be possible, thanks to increases in the bandwidth of wireless WANs, according to Ernie Park, CIO at Maytag in Iowa . That would be "a tremendous application" to help improve communications with Maytag's 830 field service technicians and transmit technical drawings and other visual information via handhelds, Park said.

It's not a widespread view though. When John Stehman, an analyst at Robert Frances Group in Westport, Connecticut, asked how many would be prepared to support video over handhelds in the next two years, less than 10 of the 250 IT managers in the conference auditorium raised their hands.