Advanced Office Functionality

By Susan Nunziata  |  Posted 10-11-2010

Windows Phone 7: Is Microsoft Abandoning the Enterprise?

Microsoft looks to be placing a bet that its efforts to capture consumer hearts and minds with its new Phone 7 OS will translate into enterprise success as well.

Enterprise applications built on the company's previous Windows Mobile operating systems or its .Net framework are commonplace in functions such as field service and support, transportation and logistics, and healthcare and government solutions that run on rugged handhelds. These users, IT teams and enterprise application developers seem to be left out in the cold for now when it comes to Phone 7.

At a launch event in New York City Oct. 11, Microsoft and AT&T unveiled plans to introduce three Phone 7 devices in the U.S. beginning Nov. 8. Ralph de la Vega, president/CEO of AT&T's Mobility & Consumer Markets, described the $200 LG Quantum -- with its multi-touchscreen and slide-out QWERTY keypad -- as aimed at the "e-mail heavy mobile pros."  Two other devices due in November from AT&T, the HTC Surround and the Samsung Focus, emphasize multimedia, gaming and social networking capabilities.

"We needed the platform to talk to each target user," Michael Woodward, VP Mobile Device Portfolio, AT&T Consumer & Mobility, told CIO Insight in explaining the mix of devices on tap from the wireless carrier. He added that, these days, most business users make their smartphone choices as consumers first.

For the IT organization, Woodward noted, the platform supports IT management capabilities available in Microsoft Exchange, including strong encryption, PIN, and remote lock-and-wipe. Microsoft is "clearly re-affirming their commitment to the users, to the lines of business in the enterprise," says Philippe Winthrop, managing director of the Enterprise Mobility Foundation, noting the platform's deep integration of SharePoint, its upgraded version of Mobile Office and its Outlook connectivity. "The question that remains unanswered is, what is their level of commitment to the IT department in terms of manageability?"

He adds, "It still remains to be seen from the enterprise perspective how the IT department is going to be able to manage the devices beyond ActiveSync policies, and how it's going to play out moving forward from an enterprise app store perspective."

Advanced Office Functionality

The Microsoft Office "hub" that is included in the Phone 7 OS offers considerably advanced mobile functionality for apps such as OneNote, SharePoint, PowerPoint and Excel. But, there is no news yet of which -- if any -- third-party enterprise apps might be available in the Microsoft Marketplace when the devices launch next month.

Microsoft's Rob Tiffany, Mobility Architect for Windows Mobile, discussed Phone 7 and its predecessor OS in his keynote at the MobileTrax Mobile Innovators Awards, on October 6 during the CTIA Enterprise & Applications trade show in San Francisco. He says Microsoft's Windows Embedded Handheld Group, which now oversees Windows Mobile 6.X, will issue a new release this fall based on its existing CE 5 kernel. "We'll have two platforms in parallel initially," said Tiffany. "Future versions will be based on the embedded Compact 7 kernel that Phone 7 is also based on."

It remains to be seen how Phone 7 will fare in an enterprise market that has seen Apple's iOS account for 56 percent of net new enterprise smartphone activations in June-September 2010. Apple's iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS and iPad led the market in enterprise mobile device activations in that period, according to a report from Good Technology. Android followed, accounting for 28 percent of net new activations in the same period.

In addition to the AT&T Phone 7 lineup, T-Mobile will offer two Windows Phone 7 handsets in the U.S. beginning in mid-November. Of these, the Dell Venue Pro is targeted at the mobile professional and features a slide-out QWERTY keypad. Whether the Dell device will go head-to-head with recent rugged enterprise smartphones introduced by Motorola and Intermec remains to be seen, notes Winthrop. The latter operate on the previous Windows Mobile platform.

Enterprises Are the Losers

Jack Gold, Founder & Principal Analyst at J. Gold Associates, puts enterprises in the "loser" column when it comes to Phone 7, "especially those with specialized applications built to the Windows Mobile platform." Apps for Phone 7 are developed using Visual Studio, Expression Blend,  and Silverlight Runtime.

Gold adds, "It will be hard for [existing enterprise] apps to be ported unless they are already Silverlight-compatible or built in standard .Net mobile protocols. The majority of enterprise apps are not."

Gold notes that, with Phone 7's reliance on Silverlight, "if developers are accustomed to C programming and lower-level languages, they will be very hard pressed to move their products to the new WP7 interfaces. Visual Studio does provide a path (through .Net Framework) but this is only convenient if they are already using this tool, and not something like Eclipse."

Business users were at the core of the previous Windows Mobile constituency, notes Gold, but many have defected to other platforms. "It is unclear whether Microsoft can win them back, or even keep the existing, albeit significantly diminished, base of enterprise users."

According to IDC's September 2010 Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, the 2010 market share for Windows Mobile smartphones is 6.8%. The research firm is forecasting that by 2014 the OS will claim 9.8% market share, by far the smallest share of the five major mobile operating systems currently available.

Worldwide Converged Mobile Device Operating System Market Shares and 2010-2014 Growth

Operating System

% Market Share, 2010

% Market Share, 2014

% Change, 2010-2014

Symbian

40.1%

32.9%

-18.0%

BlackBerry

17.9%

17.3%

-3.5%

Android

16.3%

24.6%

+51.2%

Apple iOS

14.7%

10.9%

-25.8%

Windows Mobile

6.8%

9.8%

+43.3%

Others

4.2%

4.5%

+8.3%

Source: IDC Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, September 7, 2010