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.”

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