Windows Phone 8 could be a player in the enterprise. These five factors will be key to its success.
3. Streamlined App Porting And Development
Rege wrote that the developers' "existing Windows development skills and tools can be used to now build mobile apps." In an email, Victor Cooper, a global PR representative for AirWatch, similarly remarked that WP8 could allow companies to easily port apps they already use, rather than re-building them for new platforms.
Jamie Barnett, Zenprise's senior director of marketing, pointed out during an interview that rising demand for custom apps could make WP8 a factor. Coding new apps in a single environment and then simply porting them across different devices is easier than developing for a number of different OSes, she explained. This trend matters less in a BYOD environment, as iOS and Android devices aren't going to disappear no matter how popular WP8 becomes. But for Windows-heavy businesses, the ease with which code can be transferred from one Microsoft OS to the next could be a meaningful differentiator.
4. WP8 Needs MDM And MAM
But Windows coders aren't the only developers that factor into the WP8 equation. As noted, to fit most BYOD environments, WP8 will need MDM and MAM. AirWatch, MobileIron and Symantec all announced immediate support, and Zenprise will join soon.
Microsoft recently released an SDK to support these efforts, and Rege said the company has been "very collaborative."
To an extent, a symbiotic relationship with third-party vendors makes sense for Microsoft. WP8 won't capture the entire market, so most IT departments will require tools to address a number of platforms. Microsoft's System Center 2012 somewhat addresses this by including many MDM capabilities, including some for iOS and Android. It's not cost-effective for small and midsize businesses (SMBs), however, and it's not easily implementable to companies that are already invested in competing server products. Plus, System Center 2012's MDM capabilities still leave many MAM needs unacknowledged.
In short, the full scope of the issue is "more than Microsoft wants to bite off," said Tim Williams, director of product management at Absolute Software, in an interview. He noted that the industry giant has long partnered with companies to add extra management control, citing Symantec an example.
Morales, meanwhile, wrote that "Microsoft seems to have a strong SDK, but I don't think that makes them better off than anyone else. It's all ground zero." In other words, until the developers show their wares, WP8 can't make an earnest enterprise play.
Most MDM and MAM vendors interviewed for this article said their WP8 products would mirror those in their existing lineup, at least to start. In terms of IT appeal, this is probably a good call; as Pandey put it, "People are not going to want to manage security around Windows apps and then figure out iOS and then figure Android." IT wants "uniform policies that can be pushed across all devices," he said. "Third-party vendors make it all uniform."
But users expect uniformity, too. New MDM and MAM products can't be too much like the existing ones because they need to fit into WP8's distinct UI elements. BYOD exists because employees want to bring their chosen UI to the office; if the UI is disrupted, the process falls apart.
"It's about maintaining the native aesthetic," said Duckering.
5. Consumer Interest Is The Biggest Factor
Ultimately, nothing will dictate WP8's enterprise success as much as consumer adoption, a challenge that will involve compelling hardware as much as WP8 itself.
"Platforms that aren't successful with consumers won't have the demand to be successful in the enterprise," wrote Rege. "Put simply, it's not IT command-and-control; it is IT-user partnership. The old way isn't coming back."
"Apple has made incredible inroads with little work in the enterprise because people want their devices," Morales declared. Similarly, if WP8 becomes popular enough, he said, "the enterprise connection might not matter at all."
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