Citing the strong integration between its upcoming mobile phone software and its popular business-oriented products such as Office, Exchange, and SharePoint, Microsoft is actively pitching Windows Phone 7 to IT pros and developers at its TechEd 2010 conference, which got underway Monday in New Orleans.
With a touch-oriented interface that borrows elements from the Apple iPhone and Microsoft's own underappreciated Zune HD, Windows Phone 7 clearly has strong consumer appeal. However, its tight hooks into Redmond's bread-and-butter business apps also make it a smart buy for enterprise customers, Microsoft argues.
Windows Phone 7 will "combine a smart new user interface with familiar tools such as PowerPoint, OneNote, Word, Excel and SharePoint into a single integrated experience via the Office hub," writes Microsoft's Paul Bryan in a June 7 post on the Windows Phone Blog. Businesspeople would rather carry a single smartphone for office and personal use, and a new crop of Windows Phone 7 devices coming later this year will suit their needs, he asserts.
There's plenty of outside data to back up Bryan's statement that business users want one handset for work and play. But unfortunately for Microsoft, the phone they want may belong to another vendor.
An AT&T official said last month that 4 out of 10 iPhones are sold to business users. To make matters worse, Apple's new IOS4 (previously known as iPhone OS4) adds business-friendly features, including better mobile device management and data protection, as well as SSL VPN support. And then there's Research In Motion's venerable BlackBerry platform, which remains hugely popular in the business world, even if RIM's handsets are starting to look a bit long in the tooth. And don't forget about Android, which is rapidly gaining market share.
Microsoft, however, says it has one big advantage: It makes the software ubiquitous in the enterprise. "Organizations are interested in investments they have already made (e.g. Exchange, SharePoint, Office). Windows Phone 7 enables the IT support most organizations need without the need for additional infrastructure," Bryan writes.
Redmond also sees its Office-Phone 7 integration as a big plus. "We've designed an Office hub that is both engaging and familiar to the more than 500 million people worldwide who already use Microsoft Office, while introducing a new level of integration with SharePoint, which grew by more than 20% last year alone," Brian adds.
Certainly, Windows Phone 7's attractive Zune-like interface and tight intergration with Microsoft Office apps such as PowerPoint (as seen in this video) will appeal to IT professionals and end users alike. The demand is there--Microsoft cites IDC estimates projecting 31 percent growth in smartphone units this year, and another 22 percent in 2011--but the question is whether Windows Phone 7 is too late to the party to play.