Microsoft is using its TechEd Conference in New Orleans to push Windows Phone 7, its upcoming smartphone platform, to businesses. In a blog posting timed to the start of the conference, a Microsoft executive touted Windows Phone 7's tight integration with Exchange and other business applications, as well as its use of tools such as SharePoint. Microsoft finds itself lagging behind Apple and Google in the smartphone operating-system arena, but hopes that initiatives such as Windows Phone 7 and Kin will allow it to overcome what CEO Steve Ballmer recently acknowledged as past missteps.
Microsoft is using its TechEd Conference in New Orleans to
push its upcoming smartphone platform, Windows Phone 7, as an evolution in
business communications. The company hopes its offering will compete effectively
against both Apple and Google, despite CEO Steve Ballmer's recent admission of
missteps in the mobile space, and appeal to the same business users who
represent a core element of Windows smartphone users.
Windows Phone 7 is intended as a total revamp of Microsoft's
mobile franchise. Instead of the "pages of apps" model that defines the user
interface for both Apple's iPhone and Google Android devices, Windows Phone 7
devices consolidate mobile applications and Web content into a series of "Hubs"
organized by subject, whether "Office" or "Games." If Microsoft's current plans
hold, the first devices loaded with the operating system should make their
appearance near the end of 2010; at TechEd, the company is hosting a number of
deep-dive sessions and product demonstrations for the platform.
"More than 90 [percent] of our target customers for Windows
Phone use their Smartphone for business purposes," Paul Bryan, a senior
director of Windows Phone at Microsoft, wrote
in a June 7 posting on the Windows Phone Blog
, timed to the first day of
TechEd, "and 61 percent use their phones equally or more for business than
personal use. This is why we designed Windows Phone 7 to combine a smart new
user interface with familiar tools such as PowerPoint, OneNote, Word, Excel and
SharePoint into a single integrated experience via the Office hub."
The key, Bryan added, was Windows Phone 7's integration with
existing business IT. "With Windows Phone 7, rather than attempting to
replicate the experience of the desktop," he wrote, "we focused on delivering
end-user experiences that are uniquely optimized for the phone through tighter
integration with Exchange and Office, the addition of SharePoint and our
Silverlight development platform for delivering new user experiences."
Bryan also acknowledged the minor controversy over the lack
of an upgrade path from previous editions in Microsoft's mobile franchise, such
as Windows Mobile 6.5, to Windows Phone 7.
"We needed to restart in order to build the right foundation
for the future," Bryan wrote. "We understand that migrating from Windows Mobile
6.1 or 6.5 to Windows Phone 7 will take effort. However, many customers we have
spoken with thus far have told us that these are steps they are willing to take
in order to achieve a new level of usability and productivity."
Ballmer and other Microsoft executives
have taken pains over the past few months to assure business users that Windows
Mobile will continue to be supported after Windows Phone 7's release
, but a
number of analysts see the lack of an upgrade path as a potential stumbling
block for many enterprises-something that Bryan seemed to acknowledge.
"We understand that while Windows Phone 7 will bring a new
level of business productivity to a broader range of customers than we've ever
reached before," Bryan added. However, "for more highly managed corporate
scenarios or where customers have made significant investments in applications
on Windows Mobile 6.x, Windows Mobile 6.5 may remain the best choice in the
The opening of TechEd comes a few days after Ballmer's June
3 admission, during a talk at the D8 Conference, that Microsoft had made some
substantial missteps in the mobile space.
"We were ahead of this game, and now we find ourselves No. 5
in the market," Ballmer reportedly told The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg
during an onstage question-and-answer session, according to a rough
blow-by-blow that can
be found on this Website
. "We missed a whole cycle. I've been quite public
about the fact that I've made some changes in leadership around our Windows
Phone software. We had to do a little cleanup."
However, Ballmer also struck a note of optimism about Microsoft's
prospects, given what he perceived as the smartphone arena's state of flux.
"We're driving forward in the phone business," he added, "but this is a very
dynamic business, the market leaders here have shifted over twice in the past
few years ... so we've got to have real ideas and we've got to execute
acknowledged that Android devices
, the iPhone and the BlackBerry franchise
all represent strong competitors in the space. "They've done a good job of
coming from nowhere a few years ago," Ballmer said about Apple. "They've done
their best job on the browser. People focus on the apps, but the browser is
really the thing that has distinguished their phone from others."
of course, announced its upcoming iPhone 4 at its own event on June 7
Microsoft with a further challenge as it tries to capture consumer attention in
the consumer space. In addition to Windows Phone 7, Microsoft recently released
a pair of phones, the Kin One and Kin Two, which represent another front in its
new mobile push: both Kin devices are optimized for social networking, allowing
multimedia such as photos to be quickly uploaded to the cloud. Whether the Kin
can capture a portion of the consumer market, and whether Windows Phone 7 can
seize its own share while appealing to business users, will ultimately speak to
Microsoft's longer-term prospects in this ultra-competitive space.