Enterprise Mobile, with Microsoft’s Blessing, Moves Beyond Windows Phones

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a change of management as far as Windows Mobile was concerned, everyone thought it was a reasonable thing for us to do,” says Rosenthal. “They had to think of it as an investor would, not as a strategic partner would, strictly speaking. They are realistic about now versus then, and the new management team, in particular, is okay with this.”

And just because there are more companies are selling smartphone platforms to businesses doesn’t mean it’s time to count Microsoft out, Rosenthal argues. He thinks the new Windows Phone 7 platform, announced in February, will be Microsoft’s most enterprise-friendly mobile operating system yet, despite the fact that the company is portraying the new OS mainly as an iPhone and Android competitor in the consumer mobile market.

“In the same way that Apple is genetically about the experience of the consumer, Microsoft is incapable of designing something that isn’t at least partially for enterprise, and I think that’s true with Windows Phone 7,” Rosenthal says. “It obviously isn’t fully thought out yet, and it’s fairly clear the focus will be on the consumer, and that’s fine. I think over time it will evolve to being a very compelling enterprise platform. It will probably be the most cloud-friendly environment, and they are going to have some pretty advanced approaches to application management.”

Rosenthal says he’s sure that Enterprise Mobile will have to keep updating its services as mobile technology evolves—perhaps offering greater support over time for Palm and even for Symbian (which remains strong in Europe). “We have also been doing a fair amount of iPad stuff,” he says. “We have several customers currently in pilot testing. It isn’t bad for a platform to go from zero to significant deployment efforts in less than a month.”

A year from now, says Rosenthal, “You can easily imagine five or six compelling stories existing in the marketplace, and at least several of those being strong for enterprises. It’s good news for the consumer, because competition creates innovation. It’s bad news for [corporate] IT [departments], because the lack of homogeneity creates complexity. But I think it’s good news for us because that complexity is a problem that we can solve. You’ve heard the Chinese curse—‘May you live in interesting times.’ We clearly live in interesting times as far as mobility is concerned.”

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Wade Roush is the producer and host of the podcast Soonish and a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @soonishpodcast

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