Windows Phone 7: Enterprises Go with Windows Phone 7
Consolidating personal and professional functions into a single mobile device makes Windows Phone 7 a compelling platform.
The reasons for the early success of Windows Phone 7 thus far are clear: it offers a familiar Windows experience, a powerful development platform, robust security and deployment tools, and strong integration with enterprise IT solutions such as Exchange and SharePoint. Its previous incarnation, Windows Mobile, was always well-received, and now Windows Phone 7 continues as a strong choice for enterprise mobility.
With Windows Phone 7, history begins anew. Completely redesigned from the ground up, Windows Phone 7 delivers a new level of mobile computing. It couldn’t have arrived at a better time. In the coming year, approximately 73 percent of the enterprise workforce will be mobile users. Powerful, functional and reliably connected mobile computing is no longer a luxury. It’s a necessity.
Here’s a look at some of the new features of the Windows Phone 7 platform, and what makes it a compelling solution for small and midsize businesses, enterprise-class organizations and your own inner geek.
One Device for All
The distinction between the device we carry to enhance our professional productivity and the device we carry to manage our personal lives is disappearing. The “consumerization” of IT has understandably created a need for a single device that does it all. Professionals need to be connected for business productivity, but they also demand a desirable user experience.
Windows Phone 7 delivers a completely reengineered UI, featuring a unified Start screen (see Figure 1). This acts as a quick-glance hub for your most important information. Another new interface element called Live Tiles provides animated updates such as new messages, pending appointments, news, weather and so on. It delivers these automatically via the device’s wireless connection.
Figure 1 The Windows Phone 7 Start screen
Windows Phone 7 also includes a set of features called hubs:
- The People hub gives you quick access to friends and contacts (including integration with Facebook).
- The Pictures hub lets you capture, share and publish images.
- The Music & Videos hub is an entertainment center for playing music, videos and podcasts.
- The Games hub is a portable arcade featuring a direct connection to Xbox LIVE.
- The Marketplace hub gives you one-click access to apps, games and music.
- The Office hub brings together mobile versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, and easy access to your SharePoint infrastructure.
A key tenet of mobile computing is having instant access to the information you need so you can be productive. Windows Phone 7 includes e-mail powered by Outlook Mobile, along with unified calendar and contact synchronization so you can keep in touch with colleagues and clients.
Windows Phone 7 supports Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) to synchronize e-mail, calendar and contact information with Exchange Server. It can also synchronize with any other service that supports EAS (including Windows Live Hotmail, Google Gmail and so on). EAS version 14.0 is built-in, so you can configure multiple EAS accounts. The People hub integrates contact information across multiple accounts. Calendar information from multiple accounts is also presented in a single view (with each unique calendar differentiated by color).
You can easily filter e-mail with the swipe of a finger, so you can quickly identify unread, high-priority or flagged messages (see Figure 2). There’s instant search as well, so you can quickly find the messages you need. E-mail and calendaring functionality are tightly integrated, so you can instantly respond to meeting requests, identify conflicts and so on.
Figure 2 The Outlook Mobile Inbox on Windows Phone 7
EAS also gives IT administrators a robust level of control over Windows Phone 7 accounts and users. IT has policy-level control over settings like password length, history, complexity and the number of incorrect password attempts before data on a device is deleted.
You can also help secure the connection between Windows Phone 7 devices and EAS through certificate-based authentication. Windows Phone 7 devices support digital certificates to help prevent malicious access to protected resources in the case of a compromised password or lost device. Windows Phone 7 and Certificates has more information on deploying digital certificates with Windows Phone 7.
Windows Phone 7 supports the following versions of Exchange:
- Exchange Server 2003 SP2
- Exchange Server 2007 with all service packs
- Exchange Server 2010 with all service packs
- Small Business Server 2008 with all service packs
- Microsoft Office 365 (formerly known as Business Productivity Online Suite, or BPOS)
Certain functions—like Global Address List lookups, attachment downloads and user-initiated remote wipe—are restricted to more recent versions of Exchange. Windows Phone 7 also supports POP/IMAP-based e-mail accounts. Windows Phone 7 and Exchange Server has more information on Windows Phone 7 and EAS integration.
Office in Your Pocket
Windows Phone 7 comes pre-installed with Office Mobile 2010. This includes SharePoint Workspace Mobile, Word Mobile, Excel Mobile, PowerPoint Mobile and OneNote Mobile. Centralized access to Office productivity applications begins with the Office Hub (see Figure 3). From here, you can easily open recent documents, access SharePoint sites, create new notes and more.
Figure 3 The Office Hub on Windows Phone 7
You can use SharePoint Workspace Mobile to browse SharePoint sites, libraries and lists. You can also view and update documents, take documents offline, make edits or changes, and save the updated document back to SharePoint when they’re reconnected. SharePoint Workspace Mobile also includes support for opening, sharing and synchronizing OneNote notebooks.
Word Mobile lets you view, create and edit richly formatted documents directly on your phone. Online view simplifies document navigation. This lets you quickly skip from section to section within a document. There’s also built-in reviewing functionality, which lets you view, add and delete comments within a document. After reviewing and commenting, your edits and the original formatting of the document—including elements such as tables and SmartArt—will be preserved.
With Excel Mobile, you can view, create and edit spreadsheets with much greater fidelity than before. Similar to Word Mobile, there’s Outline view and commenting is included. Excel Mobile will also preserve rich content elements such as charts and pivot tables. Excel Mobile lets you execute 114 different formulas directly from the Windows Phone 7 device.
Last-minute presentation updates will be easier with PowerPoint Mobile, which lets you view and edit presentations, once again preserving rich content elements. You can also add and edit speaker notes, or view presentations being broadcast online.
Finally, OneNote Mobile delivers rich note-taking functionality. You can search and access notes across mobile applications. You can store text, photos and voice recordings. You can also collaborate with other mobile devices using OneNote notebooks stored in SharePoint. Your changes are synced seamlessly over the air, without needing to connect directly to a PC.
Developing for the Windows Phone
There is a wide variety of applications available for Windows Phone 7 through the Marketplace Hub (see Figure 4). There are apps for managing social media channels such as Twitter, reading and sharing PDF files, staying in touch with instant messaging, and keeping up-to-date with travel information.
Figure 4 The Windows Phone 7 Marketplace Hub
It’s also fairly easy to develop your own applications for the Windows Phone 7 platform. You can build customized applications using familiar development tools like Microsoft Visual Studio, the XNA Framework and Silverlight. See the Windows Phone 7 Developer Training Kit for more on getting started with Windows Phone 7 development.
Computing on the go is no longer an option for most business users. Neither is carrying around different devices for every business or personal function (see Windows Phone 7 for Business for more details). Windows Phone 7 delivers the ideal mobile-computing platform for today’s enterprise, giving you access to everything from music and Facebook to document editing and business communication.
Joshua Hoffman* is the former editor in chief of TechNet Magazine. He’s now an independent author and consultant, advising clients on technology and audience-oriented marketing. Hoffman also serves as editor in chief of ResearchAccess.com, a site devoted to growing and enriching the market research community. He lives in New York City.*