Windows Phone 7 a Radical Departure

By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2010-04-28 Print this article Print


Windows Phone 7 a Radical Departure

While BlackBerry 6 does indeed look very different from its predecessors, Microsoft's Windows Phone 7-due to be released at an as-yet-unannounced point closer to the end of 2010-marks a far more radical departure from a previously accepted template.

Windows Phone 7 aggregates both online content and mobile applications into "hubs," subdivided into categories that include "People," "Pictures," "Office," "Music & Video" and "Games." The "Office" hub syncs productivity applications such as OneNote with the user's PC, but its true utility for many business users will be the SharePoint server connection, which allows collaboration and access to documents.

But Windows Phone 7 also has a markedly consumer focus, which some analysts feel could harm its chances with business users.

"The change will not endear Microsoft to its existing base of corporate users who will have to design and redeploy their apps if they are to utilize this new platform," Jack Gold, an analyst with J. Gold Associates, wrote in a Feb. 15 research note soon after Windows Phone 7's unveiling during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. "We don't think Microsoft can count on many enterprises making such a transition/upgrade, and most organizations will likely stay with older WinMo versions (especially those using ruggedized devices, e.g., Symbol, or those with apps that can't be easily transported)."

But that singular Office hub may also be enough for some business users.

"The main difference is that companies like Microsoft see the smartphone as a device that can accomplish work; Apple is on the other side, saying that we're going to make media devices that you can use to do most of the things you need to do for work," Charles King, an analyst for Pund-IT Research, said in a February interview with eWEEK. For Microsoft, he added, the key point for Windows Phone 7 devices will be "their easy integration with office productivity apps and easy integration with SharePoint and Exchange environments."

Businesses that rely heavily on older versions of Windows Mobile, however, may find themselves reluctant to embrace a new device. Microsoft has publicly pledged to support Windows Mobile devices even after the release of Windows Phone 7.

Both Windows Phone 7 and BlackBerry 6 will lack for apps, at least in comparison to what Apple and Google offer through their respective mobile-application storefronts. For U.S.-based Windows Mobile 6.x smartphones, the Windows Phone Marketplace offers more than 718 mobile applications in 14 categories-a pittance compared with Apple's App Store and its more than 100,000 apps-and there has been little indication of how many applications may be offered with Windows Phone 7. RIM is also touchy about the 6,500 apps in its BlackBerry App World, with Lazaridis stating during his presentation that, "Success in wireless will depend on who has the best apps, not the most apps."

RIM continues to exert a robust enterprise presence, through features such as its BlackBerry Enterprise Server-which allows for collaboration and synchronization between accounts-and the ability to exert granular control over employee security. Its laserlike focus on the segment, paired with corporations' generalized reluctance to make radical changes, could make a real battle out of other companies' attempts to take its market share. Although BlackBerry 6 certainly looks sleeker and more consumer-oriented than previous versions, much of its core functionality is instantly recognizable.

That could mean relatively little enterprise market share movement once both operating systems are in the wild, especially given Windows Phone 7's more consumer focus. One thing for certain, though, is that both companies will be issuing operating systems that are a whole lot prettier.

Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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