In December 2010, Microsoft revealed that more than 1.5 million Windows Phone 7 units were sold in the first six weeks of being available. While those numbers sound promising for Microsoft, the iPhone and Android-based devices still have a significant lead over Windows Phone 7. I think most enterprises are waiting to see what Microsoft does to the system with the first couple of updates, especially since the initial release of the product has a consumer focus.
If your organization is planning its mobile device strategy and Windows Phone 7 is an option, here are some considerations you should take into account.
- Mobile Office apps. Microsoft produces an excellent productivity suite in the form of Microsoft Office. With Windows Phone 7, a mini version of that suite has made its way to mobile devices, and it looks really good. The operating system also provides access to SharePoint-based documents.
- Carrier choice. Although Windows Phone 7 has yet to release to the CDMA-based carriers (Verizon and Sprint), the device still enjoys wider support than the iPhone when it comes to choosing a carrier. On the other hand, Android handily beats Windows Phone 7 and the iPhone in this case, since various vendors support all of the major wireless vendors in some way. For those who don't want or can't use AT&T and don't want to move to Android, Windows Phone 7 might be a fit.
- Limited ActiveSync support. Windows Phone 7 doesn't support the full range of Exchange ActiveSync policies. Check out Microsoft's fantastic Exchange ActiveSync Client Comparison Table to see which ActiveSync features are supported by Windows Phone 7. (The table also features a number of mobile device platforms, including Windows Mobile 6.5, iOS 4.2, Android, Web OS, and more.) Also look at Microsoft's Wiki entitled Exchange ActiveSync Considerations When Using Windows Phone 7 Clients, which provides more information about Windows 7 as it relates to ActiveSync.
- OS is consumer focused. Microsoft stated that Windows Phone 7 started life as a consumer product and that's what was released as an initial version of the product. From an enterprise perspective, that's not a good thing. I believe one reason why the iPhone and Android-based devices skyrocketed in popularity is because those devices can meet the needs of consumers and enterprises. The trend is to bring your own device to work, so I understand why Microsoft chose to focus on consumer features first, but they'll need to make enterprise features a serious focus pretty soon.
- No on-device encryption. (Note: This won't be a "con" for everyone.) From a security perspective, on-device encryption is pretty important and can make or break a device. If you require encryption, you're out of luck with the current release of Windows Phone 7, as the system does not support data encryption yet, nor does it support removable storage. Lack of support for removable storage can actually be a security feature for some, though.
- Multiple Exchange mailboxes. The ability to connect a mobile device to multiple Exchange mailboxes has become almost ubiquitous with recent releases of iOS and Android. Windows Phone 7 provides this ability, so it's not really a pro or a con when compared to other platforms, but for organizations considering Windows Phone 7, it doesn't hurt. Although the product supports multiple Exchange mailboxes, they are not presented as a unified inbox, but I can't see where this would be either good or bad.
If Microsoft focuses more on enterprise features for Windows Phone 7, it will be interesting to see what happens in the mobile space. The consumer focus could work in Microsoft's favor if the company can generate enough buzz over time and figure out a way to jump on the bring your own device bandwagon.
More about Windows Phone 7
- Solid start: Windows Phone 7 has decent sales and a load of apps
- 10 things to love and hate about Windows Phone 7
- Samsung Focus review: The first great Windows Phone 7 device
Keep up with Scott Lowe's posts on TechRepublic
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.