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Windows Mobile 6.5 Woos Enterprise

Microsoft wants its latest mobile operating system to comply with businesses' security needs while offering the features consumers want.

Microsoft is trying to get business users to ditch their BlackBerry smartphones by offering many consumer-friendly features in the latest version of Windows Mobile.

Paul Bryan, Microsoft's senior director for business experience, said the "consumerization" of IT is only going to be a growing issue for many companies, particularly in the mobile space. Because of this, he said Windows Mobile 6.5 focuses on the delicate balance between personal wants and corporate needs because business users don't like to carry two phones.

For the IT department, the latest software retains its tight integration with Microsoft enterprise software. This means Windows Mobile 6.5 devices will be compatible and manageable at the base level through Exchange servers for push e-mail, contacts, and calendaring. The handsets will come with preloaded software to view Word, PowerPoint, and PDF files on the go, and these devices will also have built-in encryption, policy provisioning, security, and remote-wiping capabilities.

The latest version of Windows Mobile gives end-users access to mobile applications like Facebook and Netflix through the Windows Marketplace for Mobile store. Microsoft is trying to replicate the success of Apple's App Store, but it claims its store will have a more transparent approval process. IT departments will be able to provision devices to not allow users to download apps.

Windows Mobile 6.5 also offers the My Phone wireless backup service for contacts, SMS, photos, and other data. This free service syncs content to a password-protected online portal, and customers can use this site to post photos on various sharing sites like MySpace or Flickr. A $5 premium version of this service enables users to locate a lost device on a map, as well as remotely lock or wipe the device.

Of course, Microsoft is facing a steep challenge in trying to dethrone Research In Motion because the BlackBerry maker has a dominant share in the enterprise mobility market. Additionally, Apple's iPhone is making inroads in many companies, and Palm is looking to regain ground in enterprises with its webOS platform.

"It costs additional money to run BlackBerry products in the enterprise," said Bryan. "In the context of the current economic situation, any time there's an additional cost with licenses and managing an additional server, that can put a strain on mobile messaging."

The BlackBerry Enterprise Server does cost an additional fee but it enables deeper provisioning capabilities than managing just through Exchange. However, Bryan said Exchange can handle the primary needs of many enterprise mobility customers. Microsoft also hopes to outdo the competition by having Windows Mobile on a wide variety of devices; Bryan said Microsoft expects more than 30 devices with the latest software to ship by the end of the year. This will include various form factors from the likes of HTC, Samsung, LG Electronics, Toshiba, and others.

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