Why Windows Mobile as a Business Platform?

I’ve said it before that Mobile Developers were going to change the world. I still feel this way. There are a lot of cool technologies changing our lives, but nothing compares to having a little computer in your pocket that can effectively do everything your PC does and more. The players are all out there now and the potential has only increased in scope. iPhone, Android, and Palm Pre have all got their game on. Mobile Operators are drafting new guys and cutting dead weight.

As a Windows Mobile developer, the question I often get (more now than ever) is “why should I choose Windows Mobile”?

I’m not a marketing guy, but I view this question from two sides… consumer and business. Let’s put aside the consumer space for a moment and talk about getting work done. Many businesses are still figuring out that mobilizing a workforce is a competitive advantage. It’s not just about employees getting email… you have to think about Line of Business (LOB) applications, access to workplace documents, systems integration, use of existing knowledge, security, device management, etc. It’s a big powerful mix of possibilities that can only happen when you have the tools in place to execute on all these things. In other words, it’s not just about the device… it’s about the technologies in place to support business on a device.

So why is Windows Mobile right for your business compared to all these other guys? I see it this way…

1. Windows Mobile offers the widest range of device hardware to meet any type of user preference… or location. If you want a small , low-end phone or a full featured computing device… we have it. If you want a device with a keyboard, we have those. Need a ruggedize device with a barcode scanner that can take abuse, no problem. Flip phones, slide phones, high DPI phones… we have them. You need it to work in multiple countries, no problem. Nobody gives you more options of available devices to mobilize your business and accommodate preferences. Your phone should suite you, not the other way around.

2. A secure platform above all others – We’re FIPS compliant. We provide support for IRM secured email, remote wipe of lost devices by user or admin, enforceable password and PIN policies, Storage Card encryption, encrypted SQLCE databases, Crypto APIs for developers, configurable security policies to enforce signed code or lockdown to only corporate signed apps if you want to go that route.

3. Device Management – Talk to any IT shop and they will tell you that if they can’t secure it, they will not manage it. Out of the box management support is provided via Exchange to control remote wipe, password policies, etc. This means if you have Exchange as your corporate email platform, you get basic device management capabilities with no extra investment. For more comprehensive device management needs, we offer Systems Center Mobile Device Manager (access your corp resources via VPN, configuration, deployment, disabling of device features like camera, Bluetooth, etc.) .

4. Business Integration – Windows Mobile devices provide out of box support for integration with a variety of Microsoft products like Exchange, SQL Server (merge/RDA data replication), Word/Excel/Powerpoint documents, and Sharepoint. If you are using these products in your organization already, then you extend those capabilities to mobile devices when you equip en employee with a Windows Mobile phone. There is no middle-man in our email model and you don’t pay for NOC services. Bottom line… if you are already using Microsoft technologies in your company, you are reaping your investment by taking advantage of key integration features that are already present and waiting for you. Windows Mobile integrates with the systems you already have.

5. Flexible Application Architecture – Some programs run well as web applications (until you lose connectivity). Some application need to run locally on the device (with an option to connect as permissible). Maybe you need multiple apps running at the same time. Whether you need to run concurrent, web, client, or rich internet applications – Windows Mobile supports all the scenarios. We let you decide which architecture is right for you.

6. The best develop tools on the planet – Visual Studio is the best development IDE on the planet for almost any type of application development. If you already use it to write desktop or server apps, guess what? You have what you need to build mobile applications. Just download the free emulators/SDK off the web and go for it… No applications to fill out, no approval process to get started. You don’t even need a device to get started… use the emulators with all their amazing features. No need to go through an approval process just to run code on a real device. By the way, the development community rocks. There are samples out there for just about anything you want to do. If you can’t find it on MSDN, you can find it in the community sites.

7. Flexible Deployment – Deployment should not be complicated. Once your app is done, just build a CAB (deployment package) and optionally sign it in Visual Studio. You can deploy your application any way you can get that CAB file to a device. Copy it to the device via ActiveSync/WMDC, via Storage Card, deploy over the air (via email or management software), put the CAB on your web site and let users browse to it, etc. You can even install to a desktop via any desktop management software and have the CAB pushed out the next time the device is connected. If you are using SCMDM, you can push out any software updates, remove software, or inventory installed software. Windows Mobile 6.5 brings Marketplace to every device to create an easy sales and deployment channel for ISVs. Don’t jump through hoops… Pick the deployment mechanism that makes sense for you.

8. Use what you already know – You can develop Windows Mobile applications using either native (C++) or managed code (.NET/C#/VB.NET). The native API set is basically Win32 (CE OS). The Compact Framework is basically a scaled down version of the full .NET framework (same APIs but fewer to pick from). If you already know how to do Windows develop, then you take all that knowledge to Windows Mobile. You could re-use what you already know and save money/time or you could re-train all your developers some of those other platforms – learning new languages, new tools, buying a new computer/OS’s to do it. You already have what you need to develop for Windows Mobile.

9. Bells and Whistles? – Consumers love the “bling” and marketing plays this angle for everything its worth. I still can’t help but chuckle a bit when I see out competitors trumpeting *new* features like “Copy & Paste”, “Voice Activation”, and ”Integrated Mapping”. He do need to talk about this more… Um, the absence of Cut & Paste should be considered a bug… not a feature. We’ve had Voice Command for years (just you phone to play music or call your friend by name), and anyone who has not tried Bing Mobile (formerly Live Search) is just missing out. Map your location and find attractions using your *voice*. Have you seen TellMe? My point is that there are so many cool apps out there… take your pick. Windows Mobile device are available with other forms of hardware bling…. accelerometers, light sensors, etc. No, we don’t have multi-touch… which critical business app were you using that in? Bling is pretty, but at the end of the day it’s about getting the work done and working well with others. Pick from any of thousands of 3rd party products and application to support your efforts.

10. Never Underestimate Synergy –The Windows Mobile model combines Microsoft’s CE OS with clever device makers and with strategic mobile operators all over the world to produce a global mobile phone platform. Everyone has different ideas about how to win in this market and it makes for some super tough decisions and creative collaboration. Is it easy? No. Do we have more device options, a rich and accessible platform, and a global model that scales with you as a result? Yes.

Business guys… don’t take my word for it. Go shopping and compare all the platforms out there. I hope the list above will make it easier for you to ask the right questions. You will not find a better partner than Windows Mobile to mobilize your business.

Consumer guys… this may need to be another blog post, but I’ll just quickly say that we’re going to bring some sexy back in Windows Mobile 6.5. You are going to give you some UI love and we’re going to make it super easy to locate all those great apps right on the device with Marketplace. Our hardware friends are going to deliver some great new devices and I think you are going to like what you see.