This week I’ll wrap up this series with a look at the newest (but in actuality the oldest) entry to the mobile phone market.
For those of you who may not know, Microsoft “owned” the mobile market for years with Windows Mobile. At the time there were no contenders and their products were good, but not spectacular. Devices running Windows Mobile or Windows CE (Compact Edition) existed not just as phones, but also as Pocket PC’s, a class of device that along with Palm started the PDA revolution.
The platform was starting to show it’s age and Microsoft decided to completely abandoned Windows Mobile with a promise to return after completely rewrite of the operating system as Windows Phone.
During the absence, RIM expanded their reach with Blackberry, Apple introduced the iPhone and Google, Android. Both operating systems have become exceedingly popular making it an uphill battle for Microsoft.
Until recently the embedded version of Windows CE remained popular in custom handheld devices used in manufacturing, inventory and diagnostic devices.
So, what about Windows Phone or as it will soon be called, Windows?
Microsoft has been slow at coming into the mobile market; or rather I should more accurately say Microsoft has been slow at “re-entering the mobile market.”
The original Windows Mobile devices were geared to business, With this latest release of their mobile platform Microsoft decided to be a follower and target the consumer market with Windows Phone. Unfortunately, that change lost them the business market.
Since then they’ve been struggling to meet the demands of business customers while keeping up with other manufacturers.
Has the platform been accepted? Yes, the new interface has been well received as simple and easy to use. From inception the operating system was easy to customize and put the tools people needed quickly in their hands.
There has been limited acceptance of Windows Phone in the marketplace. Quite a few manufacturers initially signed up to develop Windows Phone devices, but the numbers shrank quickly as the acceptance waned. Nokia was the primary manufacturer of the product, which was one of the reasons Microsoft eventually bought them.
Microsoft seems to be pursuing a path similar to Apple, developing software and manufacturing hardware. That plan is still in it’s infancy with the first phones developed exclusively by Microsoft are just starting to emerge.
That said, there has also been an uptick of support for the platform outside of the United States.
Microsoft has no real influence with the carriers. The carriers treat Windows Phone as they do Android.
Interestingly, Windows Phone is available from more carriers than iOS. The reason seems to be because of the number of overseas manufacturers who are developing low-end phones, the relaxing of the standards and changes in operating system requirements for devices based on the platform.
Where to use
The current iteration of Windows Phone is designed for personal use. Just as with iOS and Android Microsoft is taking measures to incorporate business features into their product.
Microsoft however has an advantage. They have a significant part of their business focused on business customers. To translate, Microsoft sees the Enterprise as significant and integration with their Enterprise tools as critical.
Most businesses use the two tools that are critical to that integration.
- Electronic Mail
- Device Management
These are two areas Microsoft is quite familiar with and also the two areas most of the other vendors are struggling with.
Microsoft Exchange is the mail system most business operate with. Connecting Android and iOS using Exchange ActiveSync has been challenging; however with Windows Phone the support is distributed with the operating system.
System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) has been used by businesses for years (under the name Systems Management Server) to secure and manage laptops and desktops; Microsoft has extended SCCM with Intune a mobile management platform. Using Intune in the enterprise minimizes the overhead of supporting mobile devices.
The mobile operating system market evolves continually, Blackberry displaced Windows Mobile as the standard for the Enterprise, but even they forgot our desire for ease of use and a growing desire to replace keyboard with something more natural, touch.
Both of those requirements were satisfied when Apple introduced iOS and the iPhone in the personal market. It was a natural course of events for people familiar with a much friendlier platform to bring the tools they use in their personal lives into work, the enterprise. It’s only the lack of adequate business controls that has slowed absolute acceptance. All the current operating systems are solving that problem; however, Windows Phone is taking the lead.
Will there ever be a dominate enterprise operating system again? It’s unlikely. Microsoft will take the lead in the enterprise simply because of the ease of integration; however, both iOS and Android have improved their enterprise support and with the use of third-party tools can challenge Windows dominance.
Mobile support for most businesses means the access to email and calendar. That can be done relatively easily with any of the operating systems mentioned. The result being all existing operating systems will more than likely be supported.
You can also expect with businesses to decide based on their needs what and how they will support mobile devices.