After multiple delays, leaks and blogger predictions, Microsoft unveiled Windows Phone 7 Series last month at Mobile World Congress to hearty and honest “Oohs and ahhs.” Most pre-release critical complaints were silenced, and anticipation of the first devices is growing. However, the fact remains that devices running version 7 won’t ship until October and, Microsoft made it clear that current WinMo applications built on versions 6.1 and 6.5 will not support the new 7 version.
Not too long ago, Microsoft was the de facto standard in enterprise mobile deployments. Enterprises wanting to deploy mission-critical enterprise applications like field service, trouble tickets, delivery and logistics in a wide array of verticals almost always opted for a Windows-based application. Unfortunately for Redmond, repeated delays, stopgap releases and new full-featured devices with competing operating systems shook enterprise confidence in Microsoft’s mobile strategy and slowed the number of enterprise deployments on Windows Mobile smart phones.
To top it off, last week, analytics firm ComScore released new smart phone operating system market share numbers for October through January. The stats show that Microsoft’s share took a major hit, with the company losing 4 percent from October to January, and now owns only 15.7 percent of the market. In contrast, RIM’s share rose 1.7 percent for a total 43 percent of the market, and Apple kicked it up .03 percent to end at a 25.1% ownership.
Although these numbers demonstrate market share for the whole of the smart phone market, BlackBerry and the iPhone are gaining ground as a platform of choice for enterprise productivity applications. Email, messaging and PIM increasingly are deployed easily and quickly without a second thought. Combined with the availability and rising adoption of Google’s Android—which gained 4.3 percent market share and now owns 7.1 percent of the total smart phone operating system market—Microsoft’s enterprise mobile strategy is in a bit of a pinch.
Carl D. Howe, Director of Anywhere Consumer Research at Yankee Group says resellers and application developers wanting to support Windows-based mobile applications have to look far out for pay-off.
“With Windows Phone 7 Series, you’re fighting for the 2012 market. Microsoft 6.5 apps won’t run on Windows Phone 7, so apps need rewrites for that platform.” said Howe. "Even once you bridge the gap in the product line, once you get there, it will take years to build a big installed base of Windows Phone 7 phones. And without a big installed base comparable to the other major platforms like iPhone and BlackBerry, it’s very hard for developers to get returns on their investments.”
So, what of the rugged device market? A market largely dominated by bulky devices running Windows Mobile from manufacturers like Motorola and Intermec. Howe says that enterprise applications are becoming more and more prevalent on consumer-grade smart phones, and the rugged hardware manufacturers will become more and more niche-focused.
“This is just part of the consumerization of the enterprise. Phones are as much as part of our personality now as jewelry, and the enterprise can’t just dictate what people use and carry without requiring them to pack two phones.” says Howe. “Industrial phones just aren’t what consumers want to carry – No one wants to go around looking like a UPS guy when they are out at the movies.