As posted before, Carrier Devices is offering through its Club i-mate community a hosted Microsoft Exchange 2003 service. Registration on Club i-mate requires entering a valid IMEI (a unique mobile phone identification number) corresponding to the user's Phone Edition or Smartphone, to confirm the user's eligibility to use the portal.
Once registered you can find support forums, live support and a series of free downloads. But the hosted Exchange Server 2003 service is the most interesting of the services. It's a free web based PIM, complete with Contacts, Calendar and Tasks. The service also comes with free e-mail services, but what really makes it special is that it provides Activesync services. The e-mail address will be [Club i-mate username]@clubimate.com. And yes, at the time I'm writing this article it's free .
There's no word in the Club i-mate about mailbox storage limit. I've sent myself a few e-mails with a total of 10MB in attachments, and they were all delivered without a problem.
The Microsoft Outlook-like browser interface
The Contacts details screen
Users can sychronise contacts, calendar and e-mail over the air with this service. Of course GPRS is the default when performing an ActiveSync, but you can also synchronise to the server when the Pocket PC or Smartphone is in the cradle using Internet passthrough.
Configuration is easy, and Club i-mate includes a program to configure your device. You can manually configure your Pocket PC, or download the program that will configure your Pocket PC (it's a simple .CAB file). You also have the option of sending an SMS to your device directly from the portal. The message will arrive on your i-mate with a link that opens on Pocket Internet Explorer and install the program.
Configuring your i-mate: plenty of choices
You can send an SMS with a link to download the configurator
Receiving the SMS from Club i-mate
The SMS link to the configurator
On PIE choose Save the file and open after download
The Club i-mate configuration program
Easy configuration: user name and password
Activesync configuration created
To synchronise, tap Sync and a GPRS connection will be established.
Once you run the program and configure the i-mate, simply start ActiveSync and press the Sync button. If you're not connected to a computer via ActiveSync then a GPRS connection will be established and the synchronisation will begin. That's when I found an unexpected problem: all the PIM information on the i-mate was gone after the synchronisation..
So, how did I manage to move my information from my Outlook to the hosted service? After restoring the contents of the i-mate I manually created the server connection using the desktop ActiveSync application instead of doing the configuration on the i-mate itself. It's not hard, and there's an Acrobat Reader document available on Club i-mate listing the server details you have to enter for manual configuration.
Click Options to create a server ActiveSync configuration
Check Enable synchronisation with a server and click Configure
Select what will be synchronised
Enter server details
Choose the "Keep items..." option to copy from your i-mate to the server
This was an important lesson: don't use the on-line configuration unless you have a fresh new device and do not plan to transfer information from your Outlook to the browser based PIM. Otherwise you'll have to delete the partnership on your computer, create it again and then establish the synchronisation with the server. Also, once you synchronise with the hosted service it seems that Contacts,, Calendar and e-mail will not be synchronised with your computer again. So, this is the time to decide if this is for you.
All the communication is secure, over a SSL connection. If you're planning to perform the ActiveSync connection with the i-mate in the cradle, remember that you'll need access to port 443 at least. Some corporate firewalls block this port.
In my tests I found that if you have a large number of records to synchronise the first time, you may want to perform the first sync over USB or Bluetooth to a computer. Subsequent ActiveSync over GPRS, without any records being changed used around 40KBytes. This will be the minimum traffic required for each Activesync. Remember that you can specify a schedule for Server Activesync, and that each connection will use at least a few kilo bytes, even without any changes.
Schedule your ActiveSync
I couldn't find any configuration for one of the most exciting features on Windows Mobile 2003: push-email when connected to a Microsoft Exchange Server 2003. There's no place to enter phone number in the Options configuration page. This is a feature that I really would like to see implemented, but I guess the SMS costs would prevent this service for being offered for free, as it is now.
As a service, free and without advertising, this is very nice. I'd like to see other manufacturers or distributors providing the same kind of services Carrier Devices is offering. Well done .