Windows Phone 8 could be a player in the enterprise. These five factors will be key to its success.
Windows Phone 8: Star Features
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Windows Phone 8 (WP8) has arrived, initial reactions are largely positive and signs have surfaced that iOS might not be as invulnerable as it has sometimes seemed. Are conditions right for Microsoft's mobile OS to shake up the BYOD scene?
Ojas Rege, VP of strategy at MobileIron, said in an email that WP8 is "a player," because "it has a compelling user experience ... and a seat at the table with IT." But he cautioned that "this doesn't guarantee success" so much as afford Microsoft an "opportunity to prove itself."
What must WP8 do to rise to this challenge? We break down the factors facing Microsoft's newest mobile OS.
1. Basic IT Tools Similar To iOS And Android
The number of third-party mobile device management (MDM) and mobile application management (MAM) vendors has exploded due largely to the remarkable popularity of iOS and Android devices. These consumer products weren't designed with IT friendliness in mind, so developers have had to add functions and controls that the native OSes lacked.
MDM and MAM vendors say WP8 will similarly require their services. Given the vendors' self-interests, this argument is predictable -- but based on the WP8 feature set, it's also true.
Out of the box, iOS, Android and WP8 offer most of the same tools: support for Exchange ActiveSync, a controlled, certification-driven app environment, etc. Execution differs. Viruses can infect iOS but as long as the device isn't jail broken, it's pretty safe. Android's security, meanwhile, has been shakier. Time will tell how WP8 does, but it looks solid. Microsoft's BitLocker technology provides secure encryption, for example -- but iOS and Android support encryption, too. It's the method that differs in most regards, not the feature.
Zenprise CEO Amit Pandey said during an interview that he doesn't see "any additional control advantages" built into WP8, though he did mention it offers "a more seamless approach" to collaboration due to easier SharePoint integration. Nonetheless, "Most work around securing apps is done by [MDM and MAM vendors], and not by the vendor of the OS," he stated.
Indeed, MobileIron's Rege wrote that the company's approach to Windows Phone 8 is basically the same as it is for other OSes: "use the baseline hooks ... to provide the first layer of management (lock, wipe, encryption, install app, etc.) and then create a more advanced capability stack on top of that (app security, document management, certificate-based identity, secure tunneling, etc.)."
In short, making WP8 an enterprise-grade OS is pretty much like making iOS or Android an enterprise-grade OS.
Analyst Chris Morales of 451 Research suggested this isn't a bad thing. "Being late means they were able to learn from Apple and Google to adopt the best of both worlds -- a vetted app store and a compartmentalized OS architecture," he wrote in an email.
And why not follow a successful act? As Brian Duckering, senior manager for Symantec's Enterprise Mobility Group, remarked during an interview, "Apple designed with consumers in mind. Ironically, this turned out to be pretty useful from a security standpoint." Still, he said, the iPhone BYOD trend "really took hold as the MDM pieces came into being."
2. Microsoft Office And The Windows Ecosystem
Pandey said WP8 is exciting because of "the ability to use Microsoft applications on tablets and phones." Enterprises, he stated, want "to use apps from the desktop in a seamless way, and that's the big hope that people are holding their breath for."
Indeed, Office holds a preeminent space in the enterprise. One can view Word documents and Excel spreadsheets on iOS and Android devices -- but they don't always look like they're supposed to, and editing them can involve buggy workarounds. WP8 not only wipes away these frustrations but also promises automatic synching of docs across devices via Office 365.
In an email, IDC analyst Stacy Crook offered that IT managers "would welcome a mobile device from Microsoft because of the potential integration ... with existing backend systems." But most enterprises "aren't rushing to upgrade to Windows 8 just yet," she cautioned, "and the feedback to the user experience has been mixed." As a result, "there is a question of how soon" WP8 will help Microsoft implement fully cohesive Windows-only environments.
Building A Mobile Business MindsetAmong 688 respondents, 46% have deployed mobile apps, with an additional 24% planning to in the next year. Soon all apps will look like mobile apps – and it's past time for those with no plans to get cracking.