Mobile management specialist XcelleNet will let its users merge consoles with the newly launched Microsoft SMS 2003 next year, adding the ability to manage devices which are at present beyond SMS’s grasp, such as Microsoft’s own Windows Mobile 2003.

“Microsoft offers core functions like inventory and software distribution, we go beyond that, and extend support to other devices,” said Yad Jaura, product marketing manager at Xcellenet. Next year, XcelleNet wil offer these features through the SMS console, thanks to a partnership with Microsoft.

XcelleNet’s established Afaria product already has links with the current release of SMS, version 2.0, which allow users to transfer inventory and other data between the two products’ management consoles. Integration software is already available to link Afaria with the new SMS 2003.

The next step is to allow users to manage mobile devices with Afaria, through SMS, without using the Afaria console, said Jaura. “This will take us to new customers.,” he said. “ So far Afaria has managed mobile users, while SMS has managed headquarters-based users.”

Afaria already supports Microsoft’s mobile platform, Windows Mobile 2003, including the Smartphone as well as previous versions such as Pocket PC 200, said Jaura. Microsoft will not add Windows Mobile support till next year, he said, and may never support Pocket PC, he said. “We will work with Microsoft to go beyond current clients,” he said. Afaria also manages non-Microsoft mobile clients, such as Palm.

The cost of Afaria varies according to what devices are managed and what level of features are chosen, said Jaura, but usually works out to a one-off payment of around $20 to $60 per client.