Seven Windows Phone 7 Factors for Mobile Management to Consider

Windows Phone 7 gets its long-awaited public unveiling in New York on Oct. 11, with the first crop of phones going on sale not long thereafter. Since Microsoft's retooled mobile OS was first announced back in February, the majority of the focus has been on its consumer-oriented features, such as integration with Microsoft's Zune music and video service or support for online gaming via Xbox Live.

The emphasis on multimedia content and games is hardly surprising given that Windows Phone 7 was designed to go up against the iPhone and the like, but it may leave Windows Mobile's traditional corporate customers wondering whether Windows Phone 7 is suitable for them. After all, people carrying (or considering) Windows Mobile 6.x devices typically do so not for cachet or gee-whiz features but rather for more staid business reasons, and the initial version of Windows Phone 7 doesn't do some of the things--like multitasking third-party apps, for example--that Windows Mobile users may have come to take for granted.

If you're an independent business user--or an IT person responsible for approving and supporting employee phones--and you're trying to determine whether Windows Phone 7 will be worth your while, consider the following seven factors that can help you determine whether to take the plunge, or take a pass (at least for the time being).

Windows Phone 7 E-mail and Productivity Software

Support for corporate email is arguably the biggest reason people opt for Windows Mobile phones, and in spite of the consumer bent WP7 will continue that support, allowing you to access and sync corporate e-mail, calendar, and contacts with an Exchange server. In fact, WP7 supports multiple Exchange account simultaneously, something WM 6.x doesn't do.

WP7 devices will also include Office Mobile 2010 (it's a Microsoft product, after all), which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote, and an Office Hub tile on the WP& home screen will make access to all those programs and the various documents, spreadsheets, and presentations they create more convenient. Companies running SharePoint 2010 will be able to access and sync with remote libraries.

Third-Party Apps

Unlike previous Windows Mobile versions, the only way to get software onto a WP7 device is through Microsoft's Windows Phone Marketplace. That means Marketplace apps will likely exhibit better quality and compatibility than WM 6.x users are accustomed to (thanks to Microsoft's vetting process) but it also means there's no way for companies to install custom or vertical apps (though existing apps need to be re-written for WP7 anyway). The ability for businesses to install apps outside the Marketplace will be added later on.

In the meantime, Microsoft's made it a point to ensure there will be a healthy selection of Marketplace apps available at launch. While some apps will certainly be business-focused, expect the first wave to be overwhelmingly lifestyle/entertainment related for the widest appeal--stuff like a Netflix player, restaurant finder, and lots and lots of games.

Copy and Paste

For many, this is one of the aforementioned "take it for granted" features, and WP7 doesn't have it--at least not yet. Although WP7's "smart links," which recognize bits of information and provide appropriate actions (such as open a Web page, dial a phone number, map an address, etc.) will obviate the need for copy and paste in many situations, if you want to say, copy a block of text from one document or e-mail to another, you're out of luck. (Just as Apple did with iOS, it's a safe bet that Microsoft will to add copy and paste to a future update.)

Carrier and Hardware Variety

If your service isn't with AT&T or T-Mobile, you'll have to wait a while for WP7 (unless you're willing to switch carriers). To meet its aggressive launch deadline, Microsoft put support for CDMA devices on the back burner, so WP7 devices won't be available for Sprint or Verizon until sometime in the first half of next year.

Also, the majority of early WP7 phones are destined to be of the large screen/ virtual keyboard variety (though at least one LG model will have a slide-out physical keyboard), which are popular in general but not every businessperson's cup of tea. If you prefer a more compact, BlackBerry-style phone with a front facing keyboard, they'll be available later.

Tethering

Simply put, if you frequently rely on a smartphone to provide laptop Internet access away from Wi-Fi hotspots, WP7 will disappoint you, because tethering is not on the menu for the initial release.

Storage

Windows Mobile users--indeed, most mobile phone users--are accustomed to adding more storage via a microSD card. But Microsoft's taken a page from Apple's playbook with WP7, so devices don't allow such storage expansion. On the other hand, WP7 devices must have a minimum of 8GB (considerably more than WM 6.x devices typically have), so most users shouldn't feel an acute need to supplement the internal storage.

Remote Features

WP7 users can take advantage of a number of free features to help locate and/or secure a lost or misplaced phone. This includes ringing your phone (even if it's set to vibrate or silent mode), pinpointing its approximate location on a map, locking the phone (and if desired, displaying a message to anyone who finds it) and if all else fails, wiping the phone of all personal data and settings.

There's no question that some noteworthy features are missing from the initial release of Windows Phone 7, so it's not an option for those that must have features like copy and paste, tethering, or removable storage. But if you're mainly concerned with the ability to access corporate e-mail and documents, Windows Phone 7 is as good a platform as Windows Mobile 6.5 (which isn't going away just yet), and arguably better when you factor in the former's myriad UI improvements.

TAGS:

Microsoft, mobile, Windows Phone 7, Microsoft Windows, mobile os

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