Windows Phone 7: Enterprise Adoption Not a Sure Thing
IT departments are more willing to keep iPhone and Android-using employees happy — bad news for Windows Phone 7.
Eye on Microsoft
By Shane O'Neill, CIO
We all know by now that Microsoft’s mobile life hangs in the balance with Windows Phone 7. Sure, Redmond will carry on if WP7 is a bust, but the software giant will be shut out of the smartphone game, one of the most important and rapidly growing tech markets.
Microsoft is not taking any of this lightly, lining up the hardware partners such as HTC, Samsung and LG and pouring close to $500 million into the marketing of its new mobile OS.
Early reviews of Windows Phone 7 commend it as a much-needed mobile clean slate for Microsoft with a unique tile-based user interface that brings together different Microsoft products and services such as 2010 versions of Office, Exchange, SharePoint, as well as Zune, Bing and Xbox Live.
Nevertheless, WP7 is late. Very late. It should have been in peoples’ hands a year ago. Microsoft may be promoting Windows Phone 7 as the ultimate phone for work and play, but the “play” part will be a tough sell. Your average consumer is not thinking about Windows Phone 7. They’re too busy staring at their beloved Droids and iPhones.
In the past year: Google and its hardware partners have released an army of Android phones that have seduced consumers; Apple released the iPhone 4 in June; and RIM continues to build on its corporate user-base and last month released its most dynamic phone, the Torch 9800.
Windows Phone 7? Um, we’re still waiting for version 1.0.
The “work” part won’t be a cakewalk either. WP7 will be challenged by a changing corporate IT culture more open to supporting workers’ personal phones.
Indeed more IT departments have been allowing employees to run corporate e-mail accounts on their personal iPhone, Droid and BlackBerry smartphones as more phone makers support ActiveSync, Microsoft’s mobile protocol for connecting mobile phones to Exchange.
Why does this make IT happy? Because it keeps employees from complaining about corporate-sanctioned phones that they don’t want to use and it helps organizations cut back on operational costs. But it’s a problem for Microsoft — and also for current enterprise mobile leader RIM. Windows Phone 7 has little chance of winning over consumers right away, but the enterprise is an area where Microsoft could gain traction quickly — but not if personal phones that meet corporate requirements keep encroaching.
John Halamka, CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and Harvard Medical School, wrote in an e-mail response to CIO.com that BIDMC now supports all phones as long as they use ActiveSync.
“We are vendor and operating system neutral,” says Halamka. “We support all phones that support Exchange ActiveSynch and meet our security standards.”
IT departments, more than employees, may embrace Windows Phone 7 for its seamless integration with Exchange and other Microsoft products and services. But IT’s willingness to keep iPhone and Android-using employees happy could be a significant roadblock for Windows Phone 7 enterprise adoption.
What do you think? Will Windows Phone 7 phones find a home at increasingly open-minded enterprises?
Shane O’Neill covers Microsoft, Windows, Operating Systems, Productivity Apps and Online Services for CIO.com. Follow Shane on Twitter @smoneill. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter at @CIOonline. Email Shane at email@example.com.