Mobile Device Management is a very popular topic in enterprises as of late and so the question of what (exactly) ConfigMgr 2012 will be able to manage has been coming up a lot lately also.

(Note that this information is current to the best of my knowledge for beta 2 of ConfigMgr 2012 and presumably for RTM.)

Basically, there are two types of client management in ConfigMgr 2012: light and native (these aren’t official names just my characterizations).

Native

Native client management means that a ConfigMgr agent exists for the platform and provides full and direct management of systems or devices running that platform. The supported Windows OSes are of course the best example of this type of management as are Windows Mobile 5, 6, 6.5 and a handful of other Windows CE based OSes like PocketPC 2003 (this does not include Windows Phone 7 which does not have a native client). This isn’t much different than ConfigMgr 2007. Actual management capabilities of each platform depend upon the specific platform; e.g., Widows Mobile 6.5 has a greater range of settings and tasks that can be managed than does PocketPC 2003.

It is also worth mentioning that the Mobile Device Manager product has been fully fully merged into ConfigMgr 2012 and no longer exists as a separate product.

Symbian (the now defunct Nokia mobile phone OS) is supposed to be supported as a native client. Because of the “death” of Symbian though, I have no idea if this is actually going to still be supported or not.

Finally, Unix and Linux native client support were formally announced at MMS 2011. This won’t be out of the box at RTM time (and is not in beta 2) but will be made available at a later date via a service pack or maybe R2. Not every feature will be be fully supported for these Unix and Linux clients, but the basics like inventory and software distribution will certainly be included.

Light

This is a new type of client support for ConfigMgr 2012 and is provided using an Exchange connector. ConfigMgr directly leverages Exchange 2010’s (and Exchange 2010 only) capabilities via ActiveSync to manage any ActiveSync capable device. This means that whatever ActiveSync management capabilities that are implemented on the device are exposed to and manageable by ConfigMgr 2012. Exactly what these capabilities are is dependent on each device’s implementation of ActiveSync as the vendor of that device sees fit and is beyond the control of ConfigMgr or Microsoft. Basically, ActiveSync is a set of specifications a minimum of which must be implemented to allow the device to connect to Exchange. Not everything in the ActiveSync specification must be implemented and so not every possible management capability provided by ActiveSync is available on every phone. Thus, light client management in ConfigMgr is subject to both the capabilities (and limitations) of both the ActiveSync specification and each vendor’s implementation of ActiveSync on their device.

Currently, the following devices have ActiveSync support built into them: Windows Phone 7, Android, iOS. Microsoft does not maintain a comprehensive list of each device’s ActiveSync capabilities, but a good matrix is maintained on Wikipedia by the community: Comparison of Exchange ActiveSync Clients.

Future

Who knows?? It’s clear that Microsoft wants to manage all enterprise worthy systems with ConfigMgr. Does this mean adding these other devices as native clients or another desktop OS? It’s all a closely guarded secret and anything I say or think on this is purely speculation.