Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 looks impressive but not necessarily for the enterprise


Microsoft finally announced the successor to its aging WinMo OS, and analysts are positive about it as the newly named Windows Phone 7 appears to be a radical departure from its previous versions. But it's also evident that WinMo 7 is geared for the consumer, not the enterprise.

The pressure was on Microsoft to do something to stave off its falling marketshare. According to research from ComScore, Microsoft's share of the U.S. mobile OS market fell by 1 percent between September and December of last year to 18 percent despite the fact that the software giant introduced WinMo 6.5 to stop the erosion. Right now, there are a lot of details we don't know, as Microsoft will reveal them later, such as what tools developers will use, here is what is known:

  • The OS won't be available until the end of the year;
  • The OS uses Zune HD's user interface and XBox Live for gaming and adds messaging, personal information management and social networking integration;
  • Real-time connectivity will be done via "tiles" and "hubs" for actions and connections, eliminating the need for multiple clicking;
  • The OS includes rich integration with Bing, XBox and other Microsoft consumer properties;
  • Microsoft now requires a minimum and consistent reference platform from the device vendors that use it.

According to Jack Gold, founder and principal analyst with J. Gold Associates, vendors using the WinMo platform were allowed to chose their components, building products using lower performance parts. This often created a frustrating user experience. However, the downside may be that existing WinMo phones likely won't be upgradeable.

When it comes to the enterprise, analysts are questioning what impact the new OS will have. Some enterprise improvements will come but its focus on the consumer market will likely only spur employees to bring in Windows Phone 7 devices in through the back door rather than massive purchases on behalf of corporations--especially since it is likely that Windows Phone 7 has nothing in common with previous OS versions. 

"The change will not endear Microsoft to its existing base of corporate users who will have to redesign and redeploy their apps if they are to utilize this new platform," wrote Gold in a commentary. "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 easily be ported). Traditional WinMo corporate device suppliers (e.g. HP, HTC) will likely find other platforms/OSes attractive, and enterprise users should start evaluating end of life strategies for existing WinMo devices."

But appealing to the consumer market may be the only way Microsoft can propel itself into the same league as iPhone and Android-based devices. It had to do something dramatic to combat what has been taking away its marketshare in the first place. It appears there had to be a trade off.

Still, it's a long way until the end of the year. iPhone has more versions up its sleeve, while a slew of Android devices will be released this year. Meanwhile, Research In Motion, with its new browser (see story below) will be attacking the consumer side of the market quite vigorously. Microsoft's challenge is to keep the mobile community interested for another nine months or so. - Lynnette