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Everyone knows Microsoft made some bad missteps with its mobile strategy over the past couple of years. The Windows Mobile platform went from being the defacto standard for the enterprise to rapidly losing market share because of the company’s failure to hurry up, make a decision, and get cracking on unleashing a full-featured operating system that could compete with the game-changing experience of the iPhone.

Because of this failure, Microsoft lagged behind the rapidly changing market, and, still, continues to scuttle behind Apple and RIM in making progress in the enterprise.

Flash back to 2007, and Microsoft was loving the enterprise mobile life. The company had close relationships with the big solution providers like IBM, and enterprise device manufacturers like Motorola (formerly Symbol) and Intermec.

Not one serious enterprise player would have considered pitching a 500-plus enterprise mobile application user deployment on a RIM or an iPhone. Enterprise email deployments were already commonplace – and RIM was winning that space—however,  enterprise perception was that when it came to enterprise-critical applications like Direct Store Delivery, Transportation and Logistics, Enterprise Asset Management or Field Service, consumer-grade devices just were not going the meet the demand for a number of reasons.

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First, the majority of consumer devices are designed to last for 18 to 24 months, if the user was lucky. In use every day and in the field, those devices would not last.  When they went down, that meant the application user was up a creek without the main tool to do his or her job.

Second, the replacement costs for broken consumer devices delayed ROI of mobile application deployments and sent hardware and application maintenance costs sky high.

Third, consumer-device applications relied on a more-connected environment instead of mostly on-device application infrastructure (think thin vs. thick). That meant users needed more memory and a more robust operating system.

Finally, RIM and Apple’s proprietary device environment added development cost, offered more limited functionality, lower application performance and resulted in “light” applications that really did not have the enterprise credibility required for mission-critical apps.

But times have changed.

Driven by a deep knowledge of their challenges and where their enterprise features lagged, RIM made major shifts and struck partnerships that were deep, profitable and close with unlikely partners like IBM – the two bedfellows are now quite snuggly (/news-and-trends/ibm-unveils-android-iphone-and-blackberry-support-at-lotusphere-2010//).  RIM has proven that when the other giant sleeps, the nimble innovator can quietly move in and snatch its bread and butter. And, now, Microsoft is challenged to reenter the enterprise mobile space, in a way that will wow the crowds, critics and potential customers.

Since Redmond faltered, the game has changed, and today’s enterprise mobility landscape looks a lot different.  But, Microsoft just may have all the tools, tricks and technologies required to put together a cohesive marketing and sales strategy that turns the tide and puts the company back on top with the release of Windows Phone Series 7.