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Windows Phone 7 misses big-business support tools

Marketplace for your important apps

Microsoft's re-reinvention of Windows Mobile risks hurting Windows Phone 7's widespread adoption by large companies.

Phones from HTC, Dell, LG, and Samsung won't work out of the gate in October with standard Microsoft technologies used by corporations to deploy and manage their apps.

That's because Windows Phone 7 won't work with technologies such as System Center Configuration Manager and Mobile Device Manager or Configuration Manager, Microsoft-watching analyst Directions on Microsoft said in its latest report.

To deploy applications, Microsoft has instead suggested that businesses place their precious apps on the phone's public Marketplace but keep out nosy consumers by restricting downloads only to users with Windows Live IDs.

"Deploying apps through the Marketplace, and requiring employees to register with unique Windows Live IDs, is a pretty clunky workaround," Directions analyst Matt Rosoff told The Reg.

He noted Microsoft has hinted this would only work for deployments with up to 100 users - which rules out a heck of a lot of "large" companies. In Microsoft's world of volume Windows licensing, large kicks in at 250 PCs.

Rosoff expects a "better corporate deployment solution" in 2011, possibly with the next major release of Configuration Manager, which will include Mobile Device Manager.

Microsoft's decision to completely break with Windows Mobile's programming past in Windows Phone 7 will also make it harder for enterprise IT departments to choose Windows Phone 7 as their mobile-computing standard.

To woo consumers, the company is going deep on touch, orientation, grouping tasks, and accelerated performance of mobile games in a package that doesn't crash. To deliver this, Windows Phone 7 uses Microsoft's Silverlight and XNA Framework for programming, but there's no native access to a database for third parties. Microsoft hopes consumers will then bring Windows Phone 7 into the workplace and IT will be forced to support Windows Phone 7 — which is what happened with Apple's iPhone.

Rosoff noted that while Apple's iPhone is widely supported in business, when IT mandates a mobile platform it has tended to be RIM's BlackBerry or Windows Mobile.

Developers who do decide it's time to rewrite their Windows Mobile apps for Windows Phone 7 phones after it's released in October will also face some severe limitations elsewhere.

Phones won't support enterprise search in Microsoft's own SharePoint server, and users won't be able to open documents protected using Microsoft's Information Rights Management technology, used in Office to control who can see, edit, and forward documents.

Applications that rely on Silverlight or Adobe's Flash in Internet Explorer won't work either, as IE for Windows Phone 7 won't support plug-ins for Flash or Silverlight.

What phones will do, though, is connect to your corporate email. Microsoft's phone operating system will work with Microsoft's Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) so users can connect to different email accounts, and synchronize calendar and contact information wirelessly.

It was Microsoft's licensing of EAS to Apple that helped ensure the iPhone's breakthrough as a phone for use in business, thanks to the widespread use and support of Exchange and Outlook in the workplace and IT operations. Other EAS licensees include Google (for Android) and Nokia.

EAS will let the Outlook Mobile 2010 Windows Phone client connect to Outlook and Exchange, with Outlook accessed through a "Live tile" on the phone's home screen.

Rosoff's report noted that Outlook Mobile has been "updated significantly". Features include voice-to-text previews of voicemail messages, a "smart search" feature to conduct searches by typing the first few letters of a query, and the ability to respond to meeting invitations using preset messages.

Despite the gaps in Windows Phone 7, Rosoff said it was important that Microsoft decided to shore up well-known consumer weaknesses in Windows Mobile, as it is end-users that drive the vast majority of smartphone purchases.®

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