With the recent news of Steve Balmer’s impending retirement, a $900 million inventory write-off for the Surface RT, and
lackluster sales on Windows Phone, the desire for a new future in mobility has
to be burning in the halls of Redmond right now. It shows in their recent acquisition of Nokia. At first blush, this acquisition is more of the same old
Microsoft trying to breathe life into the flatlining Windows Phone. It’s time they realize that the same old magic
they used to gain market dominance in the past just isn’t working in enterprise
Microsoft has a history of success as an enterprise
infrastructure player, and they need to build their enterprise mobility
strategy around that strength. It’s Microsoft’s
cloud technologies that can make the greatest impact in enterprise mobility
and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). While owning the infrastructure isn’t as sexy
as having your name on the mobile device or the operating system startup
screen, IBM has embarked on a similar mobile strategy with MobileFirst.
It’s time that Microsoft follows suit.
Office 365 and Office apps
Wasting enterprise mobility opportunities seems to be part
of the Microsoft Office 365
project charter. In reality, Office 365
should be the centerpiece of a cloud-centric Microsoft mobile strategy.
Microsoft’s release of
<yawn>Office Mobile for Office 365</yawn> for both the iPhone and
Android was an afterthought when you rate the apps against what people like harmon.ie and Colligo
are releasing for SharePoint/Office 365 clients, because the latter offer a better user experience and robust mobile collaboration features. Likewise, Quickoffice and DocsToGo each have a mobile
office app more capable than Microsoft’s lackluster Office mobile release.
Microsoft should own enterprise mobile and BYOD access
options to Office 365, but they seemingly remain on the sidelines. While I did
come across a Microsoft Office 365 Mobility Solutions Service Description that was published in 2012, reading
it makes you wonder if Microsoft can even conceive of Office 365 outside of a
I’ve written about setting up Office 365 on iOS and Android.
It’s completely different experiences, because Android requires far more manual configuration
to get email and SharePoint access working. In fact, Lync Online access was impossible
based on the version of Android my tablets were running.
Microsoft’s options are to devote the developer resources
and talent to the mobile side of Office 365 to further democratize mobile
access to Office 365 from Android and iOS devices; acquire one or more
innovative SharePoint/Office 365 mobility developers out there; or just cede
that segment and continue to languish in wasted opportunities.
Project Online technically falls under the Office 365
banner, but I’m breaking it out for purposes of my argument, because Microsoft again
lags behind in the growing mobile project management app space. While they’ve
added mobile access as part of the Project Web App, even they
describe as lightweight access.
This lightweight access falls behind companies like LiquidPlanner who have Android and iOS
apps that are on (or nearly so) parity with the LiquidPlanner SaaS applications.
Like many people, I came up the ranks using Microsoft
Project on the desktop and applauded Microsoft’s move to the cloud with Project Online.
The time is now for Project Online to move past lightweight mobile access. Microsoft needs to open up Project Online and develop a full-fledged mobile client for Android and iOS users.
More mobile support for Project Online — through Microsoft
or a partner client — for Android and iOS could make Project Online a key
element of a cloud-centric Microsoft mobile strategy. In turn, a well-designed
mobile app for Project Online could help recast it for
“regular users.” The Microsoft Project
product line still has a reputation for people with a Project Management
Professional (PMP) certification. However, teams today are increasingly more
mobile and need project schedule access to all members, not just the project
Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online
When I wrote “Access Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online from an Android tablet,” I was a bit taken
aback that Microsoft didn’t have an official Android or iOS app for the
platform. Third-party developers, like Resco, own the entire mobile app ecosystem
for Microsoft Dynamics CRM. This model breaks away from SAP, Oracle, and Salesforce, who own the mobile app and the cloud.
Considering that SaaS-based CRM solutions put powerful tools
into the hands of organizations of all sizes, Microsoft owning the client app
seems to make sense.
Azure could play an even bigger role in a cloud-centric
Microsoft mobile strategy that I’m proposing in this article. However, it would require a somewhat painful course
correction and rearrangement of development priorities and messaging, as iOS and
Android development tools for Azure come in the forefront and the Microsoft
mobile OSs take the second chair.
It’s a mobile device agnostic world out there for most
enterprises. Focusing on the cloud isn’t as sexy as the devices or the
mobile OS, but it is a better avenue for Microsoft to earn some
enterprise mobility credibility and leadership over the backend that serves
corporate and BYOD mobile users.
How do you think Microsoft could fair better in the enterprise mobility space? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.