Microsoft Launches New Mobility Tools

Microsoft introduces Windows Mobile 6.1 and an improved management tool for enterprises.

LAS VEGAS-Microsoft is introducing new features to its mobile operating system and mobile management tools to keep up with burgeoning demand for mobile devices and applications in the workplace.

Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft's entertainment and devices division, said Microsoft intends to build on its "leadership position" in business mobile applications and address the needs of business people during their leisure time as well.

His remarks came during a keynote presentation at the wireless industry's annual CTIA conference here.

Windows Mobile 6.1 includes a new "home screen" that allows users to see the most critical information at a glance. Other new features include quicker phone setup, and the ability to render full Web site pages, even on a small screen.

Microsoft also announced System Center Mobile Device Manager 2008, which allows enterprise customers to provision and otherwise manage devices that are on their networks more easily.

Bach said that MDM 2008, which also supports Exchange Server 2007 SP1, helps administrators manage phones the same way that Windows-based PCs are managed, and allows users access to company data that may be protected behind a firewall.

The object, said Bach, is to transform mobile devices into "a first class citizen on the network."

Desktop Feel, Pocket Size

The company is employing a tried-and-true strategy, which is to reuse parts of one business in another, in the hopes that user familiarity with applications like Microsoft Word will translate into sales in new areas.

The enhancements to its mobility tools "involves work we're doing with Vista and the PC," said Bach.

Bach also referred to the e-mail client as "a pocket version of Outlook" and described features as offering "the same paradigm as on the desktop."

Hewing so closely to the familiar, however, is seen in some quarters as Microsoft's Achilles' Heel. Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with the Yankee Group who follows mobile technology, criticized Microsoft for wanting to recreate the look and feel of a desktop PC on a mobile device.

"Microsoft wants to put the same look and feel on everything, but I've never heard of anyone wanting a start button on their cell phone," Kerravala told eWEEK via instant messaging.

"Windows is a GREAT user interface for a PC, but not for a phone," he added.

Kerravala pointed to how Apple has created different user experiences on the Mac, the iPod and the iPhone, all of which work seamlessly together without attempting to replicate an exact user interface.

Rather than trying to make the experiences similar, Kerravala said Microsoft should focus on making sure the applications work well "under the covers."