Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer is set to announce a new server to provide wireless access, management and security to Windows Mobile devices.

The server is called System Center Mobile Device Manager. It will enable “over-the-air” application deployments and provide security through a mobile Virtual Private Network and file encryption on wireless phones and other Windows Mobile devices, Microsoft officials said in briefings.

Client software will also be required.

Ballmer is set to announce the software in his keynote address at the CTIA Wireless IT and Entertainment 2007 conference.

The server will be available in the first half of next year, said Samir Kumar, a Microsoft senior product planner. It will be part of a family of Windows management products, a family that includes Microsoft Operations Manager and Systems Center Operations Manager.

Meanwhile, several smart phone makers have announced support for those new tools. Palm is one the device makers supporting the new software, and it plans to announce that the Treo 750 with Windows Mobile 6.0 will be Palm’s first compatible device, said Joe Fabris, senior director of wireless solutions at Palm. It will be available next year via AT&T.

Other companies apparently planning to provide compatible products include Samsung, Intermec, I-mate and Hewlett Packard.

Ballmer is also set to announce a new partnership with Enterprise Mobile, a new company that will help provide custom-made packages for businesses building mobile systems.

The capabilities of the new server include providing security for wireless connections to email and back-end applications used by workers, as well as the ability to wipe a device of data if it is lost or stolen, Kumar added.

IT managers will be able to update applications and security patches wirelessly.

Pricing will not be revealed in Ballmer’s announcement, but analysts are predicting pricing could range from $75 to $150 per user, per year.

Micrsoft’s announcement also puts it into potential conflict with some established players in this market, such as Research in Motion, Nokia’s Intellisync division, Motorola’s Good division, Novell, and iAnyhere Solutions, a unit of Sybase.

According to Kumar however, Microsoft’s new server is designed to deeply integrate with the established Windows infrastructure, including Active Directory and Windows SQL Server. That will give IT managers the ability to manage wireless devices in the same way as they already do for PCs, he said. The wireless capabilities will operate in both Wi-Fi and cellular networks.

Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at Jupiter Research, said Microsoft's new mobile management server shows that Microsoft is seeking a holistic approach with connections to its Exchange server and other products. Even the recently announced Office Communications Server 2007 will play into these mobile management capabilities, he added. “Microsoft wants to drive mobile management forward and preach about it the same way they do for managing their desktops,” he said.