At TechEd 2010, Scott Lowe explored some of the IT-related capabilities of the upcoming Windows Phone 7. Find out why he's optimistic that Microsoft is building an enterprise-worthy mobile OS.
With Windows Phone 7, Microsoft has moved away from its old mobile operating system to what amounts to a completely new product with the aim of regaining market share from the iPhone and Android-based devices.
At TechEd 2010 in New Orleans last week, I had an opportunity to look at some Windows Phone 7-based devices, and I was pretty impressed. These are the features that Microsoft has built into Windows Phone 7 that I think will be of most interest to IT professionals:
- Multiple Exchange mailbox support. Windows Phone 7 will allow users to sync with multiple Exchange servers in what appears to be an easy-to-handle way. (This capability is also making its way into iOS 4.)
- Take the Office (Hub) with you. As was the case with Windows Mobile, you can expect to find a slimmed down edition of Microsoft Office on Windows Phone 7's Office Hub, the place for all things work-related on the device. The advantage to Microsoft is that its Office suite is used by a majority of companies, making it uniquely positioned to most closely replicate the user experience in the mobile form factor. In the devices that I saw at TechEd 2010, Outlook looked absolutely fantastic. It appears that Microsoft migrated the best parts of the desktop experience to a smooth-flowing mobile form factor. I also thought the interface was impressive. (Unfortunately, I didn't get to see Word, Excel, and PowerPoint in action during TechEd 2010, but from what I've read, I expect them to receive similar treatment as Outlook.) Windows Phone 7 will also provide access to OneNote, as well as mobile access to SharePoint-based resources.
- Carrier and device choice. Microsoft has already formed partnerships with all of the major carriers. While this isn't strictly an enterprise feature, carrier freedom is critically important to many organizations that don't want to be locked into one carrier. As far as device manufacturers go, I was told that Microsoft intends to take a more active role in the manufacturing process. Whereas it seemed like vendors (i.e., device manufacturers and carriers) could do whatever they wanted to Windows Mobile-based devices (including disabling key features at will), Microsoft is taking a harder stance with the new operating system and will insist on specific baseline functionality and design. Some organizations liked choice but didn't necessarily want to get two different Windows Mobile devices that had totally different feature sets.
Microsoft is actively working on System Center Configuration Manager v.Next, although it won't be released until well after Windows Phone 7. I'll be stunned if the company doesn't include management capabilities for the new mobile operating system. On this one, I'm going on my hunches.
The bottom line
From a business standpoint, Windows Mobile-based devices remain a safe bet, with excellent support for Exchange integration, centralized device deployment and management, and wide application support.
I look forward to getting my hands on a Windows Phone 7-based device so that I can put it through its paces. Although Microsoft certainly has its work cut out for it to overcome the momentum that Apple and Google are enjoying, if the company executes in a way that makes sense, it could re-establish its mobile market.
As a former Windows Mobile aficionado who eventually saw the iPhone halo, I'm optimistic that Microsoft will get Windows Phone 7 right.
More Windows Phone 7 coverage on TechRepublic
- Windows Phone 7 cheat sheet
- Windows Phone 7 Series wish list
- Podcast: Is Windows Phone 7 Microsoft's last stand in mobile?
- If history repeats itself, Microsoft will dominate mobile platforms
- Inside the making of Windows Phone 7 (images)
- Gallery: Windows Phone 7 Series
- Gallery: Test apps for Windows Phone 7
Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive with CampusWorks, Inc. Scott is available for consulting, writing, and speaking engagements and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.