10 things network administrators need to know about Windows Phone 7

If your organization is planning its mobile device strategy and Windows Phone 7 is an option, you'll want to take these factors into account.

Microsoft has spent a fortune on marketing Windows Phone 7, but there are some areas in which the system just doesn't measure up. In all fairness, Microsoft redesigned the Windows Mobile operating system from scratch, so this could be considered a 1.0 release -- and like any 1.0 release, there is bound to be room for improvement. In addition, a number of features that previously existed in Windows Mobile 6.x have been removed. All of this adds up to some headaches for admins. This list outlines what you need to know before adopting Windows Phone 7.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: The interface takes a little getting used to

Windows Phone 7 uses a new interface that is completely different from anything Microsoft has ever created before. This new interface requires you to use several touch gestures and can take a bit of getting used to. While some areas of the interface are completely intuitive, others may leave you scratching your head.

2: Some of the hardware is optional

Although Microsoft made phone manufacturers adhere to a strict set of hardware requirements, some components are optional. In other words, the Windows Phone 7 OS will support these components, but the manufacturers are not obligated to include them in the phone. Some of the optional hardware components include:

  • Wi-Fi (802.11g and 802.11n)
  • Bluetooth
  • Expandable storage
  • A hardware keyboard

3: Some ActiveSync policy settings are missing

Unlike Windows Mobile 6.1, Windows Phone 7 supports only some of the ActiveSync policy settings that are offered by Exchange Server. These Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) policies include:

  • Password Required (applicable only to Exchange 2003 SP2)
  • Minimum Password Length
  • Idle Timeout Frequency Value
  • Device Wipe Threshold
  • Allow Simple Password
  • Password Expiration
  • Password History

There are a few other EAS policy settings that are technically enabled, but that will always return a value of True. These include:

  • Disable Removable Storage
  • Disable IrDA
  • Disable Desktop Sync
  • Block Remote Desktop
  • Block Internet Sharing

All other EAS policy settings always return a value of False.

4: Managing certificates is more difficult

Windows Mobile 6.x had a built-in applet for managing certificates. Microsoft has done away with this applet in Windows Phone 7. Windows Phone 7 devices have built- in trusts for well-known commercial certificate authorities, but there is no interface for managing certificates that were issued by an in-house enterprise certificate authority.

In spite of the fact that the Certificates applet is gone, all is not lost. I have found that you can install a certificate by emailing it to yourself and then opening the attached certificate through the phone. When you do, the mobile operating system will install the certificate.

5: There's no access to the file system

For as long as I can remember, Windows Mobile operating systems have included an applet called File Explorer that allows you to navigate the device's file system. This applet has been removed from Windows Mobile 7, and the underlying file system is no longer directly exposed. Unfortunately, it seems that navigating the device's file system through a PC when the device is connected to a USB port is not an option either.

6: The initial build is incomplete

Less than a month after the Windows Phone 7 launch, Microsoft announced that an update would soon add copy and paste functionality to Windows Phone 7. Since that time, there have been rumors that a much larger update is on the horizon that may add support for HTML 5 and app multitasking.

7: It won't work with all mobile networks

I have used Sprint as a cellular carrier since the mid-90s, and my last several phones have had Windows Mobile operating systems. Imagine my shock and disappointment when I learned that the only carriers in the United States that support Windows Phone 7 are AT&T and T-Mobile. It is worth noting, however, that there are rumors circulating about an upcoming CDMA version of Windows Phone 7 that will work on Sprint and Verizon networks. In fact, I recently discovered a Web site that allegedly shows a picture of a soon-to-be-released HTC device from Sprint running Windows Phone 7.

8: It's really a consumer device

When you read about the missing ActiveSync policies, you might have wondered why so many policy settings aren't supported by Microsoft's latest mobile operating system. Microsoft's official answer to this question is that Windows Phone 7 was developed primarily as a consumer device, not an enterprise device. However, Microsoft hints that more enterprise features may show up in future phone updates.

9: Cell providers can block updates

Many of the smartphones on the market can technically be updated, but many of the mobile carriers have a history of taking measures to block updates. After all, it is in a mobile carrier's best interest to sell you a new phone, not to extend the life of your existing phone.

When Windows Phone 7 was introduced, Microsoft decided to follow in Apple's footsteps and provide updates to the phone. However, it has recently been revealed that mobile carriers will have the right to block Microsoft updates for their customers, at least for a while. Microsoft's corporate vice president and director of Windows Phone Program Management, Joe Belifore, was recently quoted as saying, "We build updates for all Windows Phone users but must certify them with the carriers. They'll happen on a regular cadence like they do on the PC. If a carrier wants to stop an update, they can. But they will get it out on the next release."

10: The emulator is broken

In recent years, Microsoft has provided an emulator as a part of the Software Development Kit for Windows Mobile. In the case of Windows Mobile 5 and 6.x, the emulator was an exact replica of a physical Windows Mobile device.

Although Microsoft has released an emulator for Windows Phone 7, it has locked the emulator so that most of the operating system's features are hidden. Almost immediately, someone hacked the emulator and released a patch that will unlock it. Even so, some areas of the emulator are still inaccessible. For example, the options to set up email accounts and social networking accounts do not seem to do anything.

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