Opinion: Why Windows Phone 7 is too late | ARN

Opinion: Why Windows Phone 7 is too late | ARN.  (No longer available online. Original text included below.)

Before smartphones were mainstream, Microsoft’s Windows Mobile was the “business smart phone”. RIM’s Blackberry stole away the market by becoming a better communication hub. iPhone and Android have buried Blackberry by extending a phones functionality with apps. With a Microsoft mobile technology expert recently saying Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 offers a full desktop-like experience, can Microsoft make a comeback and win over mobile business users?

What Does Microsoft Offer?

The workforce is becoming increasingly mobile. With many businesses using Microsoft systems, workers need to access these systems from afar through mobile devices. Microsoft makes this possible with some key tools. Microsoft Lync, an updated version of their Office Communications Server, takes care of the communications needs. Lync provides chat and group chat, audio and video web conferencing, and software based VoIP. Microsoft Sharepoint allows secure remote access to business data, which can be viewed and edited by Microsoft Office Mobile, the smartphone version of Microsoft’s cloud based Office 365 collaboration suite.  To prevent private business documents from being copied, edited, forwarded, or saved, the new Windows Phone 7.5 supports Information Rights Management (IRM) protection.

What About the Competition?

The ability to communicate with, as well as access, view and edit data in Microsoft-based systems isn’t limited to Microsoft based phones. Though Microsoft’s offerings for Android and iOS are limited, third-party solutions are numerous. If you need to communicate with Microsoft Lync, Microsoft has said it will provide clients for both Android and iOS. Until then, Xync is a cross-platform client with full functionality. To access your SharePoint documents, SharePlus is a cross-platform SharePoint client with all the important features. To view and edit your documents, Quickoffice Pro is cross-platform and will handle most of your needs. The one area that isn’t currently supported on Android or iOS is IRM. 

Is Windows Phone the Answer?

Experts are saying that Microsoft’s mobile tools can provide a “desktop like” experience to mobile users. For a company that makes its money providing the worlds most popular desktop, that must seem important. The problem is that users are quickly adapting to mobile devices, and realizing that the mobile experience is and should be different. Apple has evolved itself into a mobile company. Google is embracing mobile with Android to extend the cloud to as many users as possible. Despite offering needed tools on a mobile platform, Microsoft is still rooted in the desktop, which will limit its success in the mobile market. 

For businesses that need a solution that is supported from the back end to the users hand, or includes IRM, Microsoft’s Windows Phone makes that possible. For most businesses though, things aren’t so clear cut. Workers have their own Android and iOS devices, and want to use them to communicate as well as access business data. Third-party solutions have become available to support these needs, and where they haven’t, remote desktop options can provide full access to your desktop from any platform, making a Microsoft solution unnecessary for most. 

Windows Phone 7.5 looks interesting, but not more so than Android or iOS. Partnering with Nokia was a bold move, but in the end will be like climbing into a sinking lifeboat. The “mobile market” ship has sailed, and while business users will continue to use Microsoft’s products, they will more frequently access them through the devices and operating systems of their competitors.