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Microsoft plays favorites in Windows Phone 7 cloud picks

Beats a big calculator

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Microsoft is betting its future on the cloud, we‘re told, and using Windows Phone 7 to lure customers in for their business, as well as personal, lives.

The focus of the Windows Phone 7 launch has been on consumer use: XBOX Live, integrated Facebook and an address book that considers a contact‘s last Tweet as important as their phone number. Redmond, though, also went out of its way to remind us that Windows Phone 7 is ideal for small businesses too, or even large ones.

Not that Windows Phone 7 provides any additional control over corporate-issued handsets, but the feature set provided by System Center Mobile for Windows Mobile handsets remains available so Windows Phone 7 handsets can still be wiped remotely even if there‘s not much in the way of granular control over what employees do with them. So as long as your business is based on Facebook and Twitter then you‘ll do fine.

That‘s a requirement because Facebook, Twitter and Windows Live is as social as the in-built applications will go. Yes, you can develop applications for other social networks, even proprietary ones, but you can‘t integrate them with the applications pre-installed on the phone - the much-hyped contacts list that displays the last social update or uploaded photograph will only work with Facebook, Windows Live and Twitter, anything else is locked out.

We raised this with Microsoft, who said they would consider expanding the supported networks if users demanded it, and pointed out that Windows Live can aggregate identities from services including LinkedIn. But if you‘re a fan of MySpace, or Orkut, or have your own company system then it won‘t be part of the “Always Delightful“ user experience even if you can get an application installed.

That may prove a challenge as initially all applications will have to be publicly listed in the Marketplace. Next year there‘ll be a corporate marketplace offering, though the details aren‘t decided yet. Following that there will be a program for limited distribution of applications, for use within an enterprise, but that‘s going to take a few years.

But at least Windows Phone 7 comes with SharePoint and a suite of applications for reading and editing Office documents, as long as you don‘t want to use a Bluetooth keyboard, or check your spelling, as neither of these are supported.

Microsoft contends such things are unnecessary on a device that will be used to comment on the work of other‘s rather than creating documents of one‘s own, and that‘s probably a fair point. Some of the handsets feature qwerty keyboards, and we would have liked to see some sort of dictionary on board but perhaps we‘re too old fashioned about such things.

Microsoft talks about “three screens and a cloud“ referring to the desktop, the mobile phone and the browser, as the three ways in which one can interact with one‘s content. However, not all clouds are made equal and by elevating Facebook, Windows Live and Twitter to an integrated status Microsoft has effectively downgraded the competition to second-class citizens, and pulled the new platform out of the enterprise no matter how it tries to argue otherwise.

But we‘ll leave the final words to the Microsoft PR who was demonstrating Excel on a handset and showing a good grasp of the challenges facing Microsoft: “Gone are the days of carrying a big calculator“ he proudly declared. Manufacturers of big calculators, beware! ®

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