Three Things Microsoft Must Do to Win Back the Mobile EnterpriseBy Leah Gabriel Nurik | Posted 2010-06-18 Email Print
Microsoft's planning to make a comeback in the mobile enterprise -- a market that has been stormed by what were once upstart players -- Apple iPhone and RIM Blackberry. Microsoft's plans include a the new Windows Phone 7 operating system. But Microsoft must be careful to not make the same missteps that lost it the market share in the first place. Here are three things Microsoft must do to win back the mobile enterprise from Apple and RIM
If Microsoft wants to rescale the mobile mountain, winning back the enterprise with its forthcoming Windows Phone 7 operating system, there are some things the folks in Redmond need to do—and fast. Here are the three things Microsoft must do to win its territory back from RIM’s Blackberry and Apple’s iPhone.
Number 1: Windows Phone 7 Better Be Good
Buzz around Microsoft’s revamped and renewed mobile OS is loud and positive. The first sneak peeks of the seedling platform it at February’s Mobile Congress in Barcelona immediately turned once-harsh critics into giddy school children, avidly awaiting its release. What Microsoft is calling the Windows Phone Series 7 could really be a game-changer in the enterprise mobile market— if it meets expectations and lives up to Microsoft’s espoused vision.
Originally, speculation around the delivery of WPS 7 had many Microsoft application and enterprise hardware partners as well as analysts saying they would be sticking with 6.5, because 7 would be a consumer-play, but, that perception has changed. Now, partners are excited and planning to support what is supposed to be Windows Phone 7’s rich and collaborative functionality. When combined with the undeniable force that the consumerization of IT is playing in enterprise mobile device adoption, WPS 7 could be a killer OS for the mobile enterprise, regardless of application.
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Windows Phone Series 7 will bring together all of the cool things Microsoft offers in what could be a market-changing platform. The platform aims to include rich multimedia and interactive experiences with Xbox LIVE and Zune –which may not matter much to the enterprise, but it will help with consumer-driven adoption. The platform also will integrate social networking and offers native access to Office, including Sharepoint and OneNote, which translates to enterprise-strength communication and collaboration on a slick and cool smart-phone. And, users and developers do not need to buy these capabilities from third-party application providers, obviously they comes native and fully integrated with the OS.
Sounds great, right? Well, if 7 meets all the expectations, and really delivers that kind of rich, intuitive experience while being ready for enterprise prime-time, then Apple, RIM and Google better watch out.
Number 2: Hurry, Hurry, Don’t Be Late
But Microsoft had better not let that release slip any longer. The armies of techies, critics, enterprises, and partners are waiting with baited breath for Windows Phone Series 7. And, let’s face it, we’ve all been waiting a long, long time—too long. Multiple delays and the release of a much-criticized stop gap release helped get Microsoft into the mess it is currently in.
If Microsoft slips, plainly, it’s just bad all around. Why? Well, when Microsoft provided a sneak peek back in February, a lot of Microsoft critics turned a corner, hopeful that the company was on its way back to the top. The industry pundits, analysts and bloggers that we love to hate (but shamelessly read) will never forgive. That means one, final and last nail in Microsoft’s PR mobile coffin from which they may never recover.
Number 3: Rebuild and Renew Partner Relationships
Microsoft has a lot of work to do to rebuild mobile partner relationships. Mobile app, hardware and VAR partners were fiercely loyal to Microsoft for almost a decade, not offering support for their mobile solutions on other platforms. But, over the past three years, Microsoft’s lack of mobile ingenuity and innovation, shifted the game and made "agnostic platforms" the norm, not the exception. Microsoft knows that these formerly close partners will not drop support for RIM Blackberry or Apple, but it better figure out a way to make supporting its new version(s) of Windows Mobile attractive and profitable for resellers and software companies.
According to Microsoft, it has some solid development partnerships already in place with the carriers and the hardware vendors, but we will see what transpires when it comes to the application providers, resellers and the big houses like IBM, who is now very cozy with RIM.
Cloudy with a Chance of Decimation
Last year, the cloud was buzz—this year it’s quickly becoming an enterprise reality, and everyone is getting into the act, whether its MSPs, or big players like Fuijitsu, IBM and, of course, Google. Define it how you will, the cloud means cheaper and more scalability for everyone selling into and deploying for the enterprise and the small business and midsized business. Sure, there are risks and corporate buyers remain cautious, but little experiments here and there are quickly becoming the standard.
When it comes to mobility, it seems obvious that the cloud is the place to be for enterprise mobile applications. Apple does not have it nor does RIM. Microsoft’s Azure will fit perfectly into a strategy that could result in mobile cloud domination. But, they need to package it right with other solutions such as Sharepoint, mobile office, and device management and security capabilities.
And, Steve Ballmer recently said when it came to the cloud, Microsoft is committed.
"The large business will have an agility and a speed of action which is amazing. So, this move to the cloud is important and as we like to say today at Microsoft, when it comes to the cloud, we're all in," Ballmer said in India when speaking with Microsoft partners.
Not to discount Google’s cloud as an important competitive obstacle, but Google and Android are suffering in the enterprise because of their lack of security.
Vendors and mobile analysts are fighting back against Google’s push into the enterprise and most mobile application providers are waiting cautiously to support Android, with roadmaps having Android support available for Q1 or even Q2 of next year. That means Android may be popular with the geeky consumer set, but even the consumerization of IT is not driving the demand for enterprise support right now.