Microsoft’s big launch of the Windows Phone 7 was one of those great hooplas that the company rolls out when announcing a new product, but this time it was some pretty important hoopla.
A lot depends on whether Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 gets off to a big enough start to succeed in keeping the company relevant in the mobile market. Right now it looks like Microsoft is giving it the best shot it knows how to make.
Unfortunately, whether Microsoft’s best is good enough remains to be seen. The phone looks like it has all the right parts, meaning that at first glance Windows Phone 7 will look a lot like an Android phone, but once you get past the first look, there are differences.
Most notably, the screen is organized around functions rather than applications. So you’ll see things like an icon for the e-mail hub, or one for the Office hub. These hub icons and their enclosed application icons apparently can be animated and can show a tiny view of what they’ll look like when opened-kind of like the view you get when you pause your mouse pointer over an icon on the Windows 7 Taskbar.
This approach is vaguely reminiscent of Microsoft’s ill-fated Kin phone that so horrified the consumer base that it was withdrawn within weeks. That phone used tiles that opened on to e-mail, instant messaging and social networking sites. But there are differences. The most notable is that Microsoft is launching this phone globally. Furthermore it’s using a variety of manufacturers and carriers. In the United States, AT&T will get the phone first followed a week later by T-Mobile. Manufacturers will include Samsung, HTC, Dell and LG.
Much has been made about the fact that Microsoft Phone 7 is launching on GSM networks first, but this makes a lot of sense. While the CDMA networks of Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel are big in the United States, most of the world is GSM. This is likely the same reason that Apple stuck with GSM carriers so long-it ensures the biggest global user base. Unlike Apple, however, Microsoft is said to be planning a launch of CDMA versions of the Windows Phone 7 in early 2011.
Unlike the hapless Kin, the Phone 7 devices will at least have the capability of doing actual work in a business environment. Microsoft will include a mobile version of Outlook with the capability of connecting to more than one Exchange server, and it will have a fully functional calendar and address book.
Windows Phone 7 Needs to Gain Enterprises Trust
In addition, the Windows Phone 7 will come with mobile versions of Microsoft Office, including the ability to work with SharePoint Server. While there’s some question about how convenient it will be to create or edit documents on a phone, the capability will be there. So not only can you create your own PowerPoint slides while you ride the bus, but you can use the Windows Phone 7 sharing feature to inflict them on others.
But there’s more to being a good enterprise phone than just working with Exchange and being able to edit Office documents. Other phones can do these tasks, too. What will matter to enterprise IT managers is whether Windows Phone 7 can be integrated easily into the enterprise, and whether it can be made secure enough to be trusted. There are some encouraging signs here. Microsoft is already promising the ability to find a lost phone, to erase and lock a phone remotely, and even to post a “Please Return” message on the screen.
Missing so far is any mention of other abilities to control the phone remotely, such as the ability that’s present in Exchange Server to turn off the camera in some circumstances. Without that, there will be organizations that will not be able to allow Windows Phone 7 phones into the workplace.
This may not matter, of course, since the real direction of the device appears to be recreation and entertainment rather than work. But part of the reason for the success of the iPhone and the many Android devices is the ability to present something useful to virtually all users.
Apple went to a lot of trouble to make the iPhone enterprise-friendly. So despite its emphasis as a music and movie platform, it also includes the ability to be managed by the enterprise. BlackBerry devices, of course, are tightly integrated with enterprise needs, and while Windows Phone 7 devices may not need to emulate that capability, Microsoft does need to address use in the enterprise if Phone 7 is to be successful in that part of the market.
Right now, we don’t know exactly what Microsoft will be able to deliver with Windows Phone 7, although one hopes it’s a lot more like the functionality of the iPhone and Android devices than like the ill-fated Kin. Despite the new, slightly Kin-like screen, at least some of the parts seem to be in place. But a great deal will depend on whether enough of them are there for IT managers to care about Windows Phone 7.