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Mobile // Mobile Devices
07:51 AM

Best Smartphone Platforms For Business

A smartphone's OS drives its productivity-enhancing powers. Here's a guide to choosing among Windows Mobile, Blackberry, iPhone, Nokia S60, and Google Android.

Examine Platform Options

Once you know what level of access you need to support and how the hardware will be used day in and day out, comes the time to pick the best platform. Current Analysis' Avi Greengart said, "There is no best platform, but there are several good ones to choose from. The best for one will not be the best for another, and vice versa."

Greengart cuts to the chase and recommends that you "do whatever your senior executive says to do." He's not kidding. "From a practical standpoint, a newbie IT manager will learn the hard way if he/she doesn't follow an executive's wishes. Just because you [in IT] know that Google's Android is a completely untested platform doesn't mean you should tell your executive 'No' if they get one at Best Buy [when it's released] and ask you to support it."

Supporting one device to make an executive happy, however, is a bit different from supporting many. Let's look more at what each platform has to offer, and what they don't.

  1. Windows Mobile: "Right now in terms of in terms of just e-mail, voice, and simple browsing, Microsoft's Windows Mobile should probably be number one," said Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney. The main reason is that Microsoft has the widest base of third-party applications that will run on it. "When it comes to on-device apps, Microsoft is dominant."

    Windows Mobile also has the advantage if you are a Windows development shop. You can use the same tools you are already familiar with for Windows Mobile. Windows Mobile has been around a long time and has a tremendous library of business applications ready to go.

    Training is another factor to consider. In terms of ease of use and training, a lot of people have been focused on "WinMo" and how desktop-like it is relative to the iPhone. Many consider Windows Mobile's desktop appearance to be a negative, but when it comes to training users, it has a shallower learning curve than the BlackBerry operating system. "The desktop metaphor is extremely familiar," said Greengart.

    Another advantage that Windows Mobile has is the wide variety and breadth of device selection available. "There are a lot of Windows Mobile licensees out there," noted Greengart. "You can get Windows Mobile in touch or non-touch, QWERTY or non-QWERTY, slider or slab, rugged or non-rugged." There's no doubt that Windows Mobile devices cover a lot of ground.

  2. BlackBerry OS: If you don't need the higher degree of customization, BlackBerry OS and RIM's devices are more than enough to fit the bill for e-mail retrieval, simple applications, and basic browsing. RIM has worked hard to expand its device portfolio lately to compete with the device selection offered by its competitors. As Greengart puts it, BlackBerrys now come in "thin, wide, and wider," referencing the Pearl, Curve, and 8800 series.

    If your IT shop is already invested in the BlackBerry Enterprise Server and devices, there is no need to change systems unless your needs aren't being met. "RIM would be fine if you're running light-duty Web-based apps," said Gartner's Dulaney.

    Only recently has BlackBerry been able to garner the same third-party vendor support from its partners that Windows Mobile enjoys. Microsoft still has a big lead here, though.

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