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5/23/2013
01:16 PM
Mark Kaplan
Mark Kaplan
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Windows Phone 8 'Gets' Business Needs

For companies that provide smartphones to employees, Windows Phone 8 is worth a look. Here's why.

8 Free, Must-Have Windows 8 Apps
8 Free, Must-Have Windows 8 Apps
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Let's face facts: It's cumbersome to do some business tasks on an iPhone. I'm not talking about basic or "consumerized" functions, like email or conferencing on FaceTime. I'm talking about a browser that renders pages correctly so users can access customized Web apps, and the ability to run applications like Microsoft Lync to join voice and video meetings.

Some background: Two years ago, I decide to stop supporting BlackBerry at my company, a support service for students prepping for the bar exam. We had just migrated to Microsoft Office 365, and I couldn't justify the additional $10 per month per BlackBerry user for BES. Windows Phone 7 was, for the most part, horrible. Microsoft just hadn't gotten it yet, and I wasn't a fan of the Android OS.

Losing the BlackBerry's physical keyboard was the most difficult part of the transition, but we struggled through it. As much as I tried, though, I just wasn't excited about the iPhone and found it fell short from a business perspective. My users didn't mind as much as I did, but I kept wishing for a better choice.

[ Windows Phone 8 adopters should keep an eye on this deadline: Windows Phone 8 Support To End In 2014. ]

Fast forward to Windows Phone 8. I got a Nokia Lumia 920 in for testing, and the transfer from the iPhone was flawless. Yes, gripes about a lack of apps are valid, but that's to be expected for a relatively new OS. So what if I don't have Instagram and can't play Words with Friends? We don't need to do that on a company-owned device, even if we did have time for games.

Our mobility model is simple: No one is allowed to expense cell phone charges. All devices are issued by the company, and all charges are paid by the company. We do not restrict usage to business only and do allow personal use of the device. However, we do monitor the bills, and anyone found to be abusing their privileges are dealt with. For the most part, I have found this model works best. When a user leaves the company, the device is returned. No question about who owns the phone number.

The corporate-owned, employee-enabled (COPE) model is gaining in popularity. And there are compelling reasons why companies that need control over mobility -- and that might still be clinging to BlackBerry -- should look at Windows Phone 8. The OS is extremely easy to use. Having live tiles update with information like email, calendar and maybe traffic info for employees who spend a lot of time on the road is handy.

Setup is simple. I was able to back up email, contacts, messages and pictures using an iPhone app, then restore that data using a Windows Phone app. There are similar apps for switching to a Windows Phone from a BlackBerry or Android device. Adding email accounts from virtually any provider is also quite simple through the OS interface.

Being a Microsoft shop, integration with Office is a strong selling point. The Microsoft Lync client is handy for allowing users to join voice or video meetings from the phone. Voice quality is exceptional. I have had no issues using the phone itself or with a headset. Calls are crisp and clear.

Users can get SkyDrive accounts for cloud storage and backups. OneNote also syncs to SkyDrive, so notes are always available, anywhere. At first I was leery of this service. No one wants their data stored externally, and SkyDrive can be blocked via policy. However, unless you're currently blocking the Apple iCloud service on iPhones and iPads, you really already have the problem of your data being stored externally. In fact, it's a whole broader discussion around data security.

There are so many free cloud-based storage services out there (Google, DropBox) that one can take an entire day just vetting them out. We have chosen to allow these services because blocking everything isn't feasible.

Adding photos and music -- if you decide to allow this -- is as simple as plugging in the phone and using the sync app that pops up when employees plug the phone into their PCs. Photos can be dragged and dropped using Windows Explorer. Music can be synced either through iTunes or Windows Media Player. Playlists will also sync over. Those custom Web apps that just don't function well on Safari? Everything works perfectly on the Windows Phone 8 browser.

Of course, as with any new OS, there are a few bugs. Microsoft left out VPN support, so there are no VPN clients that will currently work on a Windows Phone. The good news is that's on the docket for the next major update to 8.1. I personally dislike the "toast" notifications that pop up every time you get a text message, and there's no way to turn them off. Come on, Microsoft, this is privacy issue.

Some popular apps are not yet available for the platform; however, more are added daily. Battery life could be better. It took me a few days to tweak my phone so I could get a full day out of a charge.

Still, BlackBerry holdouts and those looking to move to a COPE model from the BYOD Wild West should revisit Windows Phone and evaluate the new OS. Its integration with a Windows enterprise environment makes it easy to manage, delivers a better end-user experience, and makes for fewer help desk issues when syncing mail and accessing company apps and information.

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dlessard611
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dlessard611,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/30/2013 | 2:26:19 PM
re: Windows Phone 8 'Gets' Business Needs
I had the same concerns going to a virtual keyboard from a BlackBerry, but the Windows Phone 8 keyboard is superb, perhaps this is partly due to a 4.3" screen, which is nicer than the iPhone IMO. Compared to Android's keyboard and what I've used on iPhones, WP8's is far superior. I find I can type more accuratlely and faster now with this keyboard. Autocorrect is excellent and not the nanny that iOS provides. Android's keyboard feels clunky in comparison on my tablet. I wish there was a Windows 8 7" screen tablet.
itguy2000
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itguy2000,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/29/2013 | 5:33:22 PM
re: Windows Phone 8 'Gets' Business Needs
What exactly doesn't work for you? When you say its a waste, what isn't it doing that you are looking for it to do?
itguy2000
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itguy2000,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/29/2013 | 5:32:09 PM
re: Windows Phone 8 'Gets' Business Needs
You may want to try the new Outlook WP8 client. It has more of a Gmail web look and feel to it.
itguy2000
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itguy2000,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/29/2013 | 5:31:01 PM
re: Windows Phone 8 'Gets' Business Needs
Laurianne, my biggest issue with Android is how hard it is to do basic tasks like creating/deleting a new email account. My user base also seems to need much more help using Android than any other phone OS.
itguy2000
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itguy2000,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/29/2013 | 5:29:46 PM
re: Windows Phone 8 'Gets' Business Needs
TerryB, For my WP8 users, I have them connect to a MiFi that has a direct connection to my network.
nikhiludgirkar
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nikhiludgirkar,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/29/2013 | 3:59:09 AM
re: Windows Phone 8 'Gets' Business Needs
You have been correct Mark. I stronly feel that even though Windows Phone is late to the market it still will be one of the popular devices in the coming years owing to it's integration in Enterprise market plus its quite unique in a way UI is made plus Microsoft's prowess in Software in getting developers onboard to developing new apps. Also it has got Nokia as a partner which was samsung of Olden days. I have an Android device which I don't think is as polished as Windows Phone. I am too planning to buy windows phone device the next year
Tony Kontzer
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Tony Kontzer,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/28/2013 | 10:33:49 PM
re: Windows Phone 8 'Gets' Business Needs
I switched from BlackBerry to iPhone about a year-and-a-half ago, and I share Mark's feelings about the keyboard. It's not a small issue. I'm just a solo freelance journalist, unconnected to any IT department or corporate network, so the iPhone actually probably works much better for me than it has for his staff. But that keyboard thing is huge. Typing texts and emails on the iPhone can be insanely frustrating at times. Definitely my biggest complaint about touch interfaces. That said, on all other fronts, it sure sounds like Mark's made the right call for his business purposes.
John Darshan
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John Darshan,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/28/2013 | 9:53:11 PM
re: Windows Phone 8 'Gets' Business Needs
I have a Nokia Lumia on office 365, The experience is a WASTE I'm sorry the operating system and the device is catered towards consumers, and is catching dust for usage. I once had a o2 xda exec (htc universal) running 6.1 professional and a hp 910c almost perfect use for outlook calender tasks, most importantly Categories. What happened to devices for managing Projects?
dlessard611
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dlessard611,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/28/2013 | 8:18:23 PM
re: Windows Phone 8 'Gets' Business Needs
I've been the first WP8 device adopter at my company and have been using it for the past 5 months or so. I'm using the Nokia Lumia 822 and could not be happier. Our company operates a COPE model more or less, although I had to purchase my device myself and have it connected to the corp plan.

I came from a BlackBerry and I have to say it doesn't come close to WP8. Yes there are concerns about VPN connectivity but non of our devices are connecting this way. Most users are, regardless of handset, using email and browsing. For me the other tech things like the camera and video capture are crucial for communicating things in an engineering and manufacturing world. The BB was useless for this. SkyDrive integration is great, I take a picture and when I get back to my desk the phone is already sync'd with my desktop and there it is, quite handy. OneNote may be the single more used app for me as I use it extensively on the desktop, but I know there are OneNote clients avaialble on the other platforms.

The email client on WP8 takes a little getting used to, I can't say I love it yet but it's growing on me. The browser is great, most things render nicely. Supporting micro-sd is also a big deal from my 822 which many phones don't support.

Many users are now carrying iPhone's and it's easy to tell these users from others. One thing that makes it easy is iPhone's email client absolutely destroys email formatting, essetially ruining conversation flow and indentation, it drives me crazy. Go back to your Outlook desktop client and you can't follow an email once one of those things replys to one. How can iOS be so bad at email? One thing BB did well is email, I will admit to that but the WP8 client and ActiveSync do quite well.
The performance of the phone is very snappy, flow is beutiful and I've even bought my wife a copy of this phone and when we use her Android tablet it feels like old and tired tech. WP8 is really unique and feels more alive than the old static icon wasteland of BB, iOS and Android.
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
5/28/2013 | 5:00:43 PM
re: Windows Phone 8 'Gets' Business Needs
So how does this phone connect to custom browser apps? You noted it doesn't do VPN so you must mean inside a firewall. Can the phone join an AD domain so it can use RADIUS Wi-Fi services at inside firewall sites? We currently do not allow smartphones (and tablets) to connect to our Wi-Fi mainly because of this reason. To me, Microsoft enterprise integration is about AD, not whether you can run Lync applications.
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
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