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Windows Phone 8: Ready For Business?

Windows Phone 8 has five important new elements for enterprises. But simply compare Windows Phone 8 to iOS and Android and you'll miss Microsoft's larger goal.

Windows Phone 8 Start Screen
Windows Phone 8 Start Screen
It is tempting to view Windows Phone 8, the next version of Microsoft's mobile platform, within the confines of today's competitive landscape, comparing its features and application ecosystem to Google Android, Apple iOS, or RIM BlackBerry OS. But Windows Phone 8 represents much more than that, one way or another.

Windows Phone 7.5 is an enjoyable smartphone experience, even if the hardware it works on is comparably weak and its feature set is still playing catch up. Windows Phone 8 surely starts to close that gap, with better hardware support (processing, higher end displays), NFC capability, Internet Explorer 10, and the integrated Wallet application experience (akin to what Apple announced with Passport in iOS 6). During its Windows Phone Summit in San Francisco on Wednesday, Microsoft also made it clear that it was only focusing on a few core elements. So there is more to come.

There has been some encouraging Windows Phone 7 news for Microsoft: T-Mobile has seen Windows Phone 7 sales double in the past eight months, Slashgear reported.

Yet Microsoft also had to own up to a few setbacks, the biggest one being the long-rumored news that existing Windows Phone 7.x phones will not run Windows Phone 8. That had to make its hardware partners hurl, especially Nokia, which just rolled out the Lumia 900 earlier this spring. It's likely that most of the partners have known about this change for some time, and it's equally unlikely that we'll see any new phones between now and when Windows Phone 8 ships.

More important, this news had to make Windows Phone 7.x customers unhappy. Their consolation prize: Windows Phone 7.8, which will attempt to satiate end users with the new Start screen, a user experience upgrade that lets you customize your live tiles (you can re-size tiles, re-arrange them, and pin just about anything). Adding salt to the wound, Windows Phone 8 apps won't work on the older OS (Windows 7 and Windows 7.5 apps will run on Windows 8, however).

While Microsoft re-shuffles its deck, Google gets its turn next week at its annual developer conference, Google I/O, where it is sure to raise the bar with Android, just as Apple did recently with iOS. Microsoft is likely to be playing catch up for a good, long time.

It may seem that Microsoft's mobile OS has taken one step forward, and one step back. I'm quite sure Microsoft would eventually like to have a mobile operating system that competes aggressively with Android and iOS on a feature-by-feature basis. But for now Microsoft has a much heftier aim, and it's one that plays on the software giant's traditional strengths and futuristic motivations.

Simply put: Microsoft wants to own the entire end-user computing experience, regardless of the computing device.

Windows 8 was Microsoft's first big step toward that goal, and Surface, the tablet Microsoft announced earlier in the week showed just how serious Microsoft is about that goal. Windows Phone 8 represents the next major component.

Microsoft is using the commercial success of Windows as a predictor: 1.3 billion Windows users Microsoft says, from the household to the enterprise, is unparalleled ubiquity, like it or not. With RIM's fate quietly chiseled away, Microsoft is well poised to make the enterprise its battle trench in mobile.

On Wednesday, Microsoft made several significant enterprise announcements regarding Windows Phone 8. Most of them were obvious, welcomed, and way overdue (read: lacking in Windows Phone 7.x). An underlying kernel change may have been less obvious, even more overdue, and the ultimate detail upon which Microsoft is placing most of its mobile bets for the coming decade.

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User Rank: Apprentice
6/22/2012 | 11:06:43 PM
re: Windows Phone 8: Ready For Business?
Problem is that the void created by RIM's implosion is already being filled: Users have forced the enterprise to accept the iOS/Android mobile devices they prefer. Many enterprises have middleware and policies in place for these devices and are even creating employee apps for them.

For those still loyal to RIM, their new devices are still in the pipeline as far as we know and could come to market at around the same time as Windows 8. BES is still up and running and the new Blackberries will supposedly run Android apps, giving them potentially a big library.

Bottom line people and enterprises have invested time and money in preferred platforms; it won't be easy to force employees to switch to Win 8 devices. That means that like it or not Microsoft has to court the consumer--with a much smaller app library and a very little cool factor for anyone but gamers.

To do that they need to deliver products that people can touch, not just ignite the tech press. We're still only a few steps past the vaporware mark. Microsoft's intentions are clear but the outcome is far from it.
User Rank: Apprentice
6/21/2012 | 6:28:48 PM
re: Windows Phone 8: Ready For Business?
Ready for Business? Not until they start shipping. One thing to say what's coming, another thing to actually start shipping and Apps are likely to be scarce. Same problem that has been plauging Windows Phone 7.x for some time. I think their ideas are O.K., but the devil is always in the details and implementation.
User Rank: Apprentice
6/21/2012 | 5:58:19 PM
re: Windows Phone 8: Ready For Business?
I wonder if the new kernel will support Intel processors, like the ones used on the Lava intel phone and the Orange intel phone.

Company hub looks interesting... I am charge of rolling out a lot of our company's new mobile initiatives and that could make things easier if we settle on WP8 as a smartphone platform. I think our company would need Motorola Solutions/Intermec/Dolphin etc, to get on board with WP8 for that to happen though.
User Rank: Apprentice
6/21/2012 | 4:27:35 PM
re: Windows Phone 8: Ready For Business?
Only issue I am seeing so far is the lack of VPN support.
For the global enterprise where I work, VPN is scheduled to be around for the next few years.
This makes the Win8 phones intriguing, but not an option at this time. Currently both iOS and Android are supported.
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