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TechnologyMar 11, 2011

5 Reasons To Wait Before Rolling Out WP7 as Your Corporate Mobile Platform

Rick Gipson

As a follow up to a previous blog on the reasons to consider WP7 as your corporate mobile platform, we will discuss the Top 5 issues that might prevent Windows Phone 7 from being your platform of choice for enterprise application development.

Lack of VPN support – Windows Phone 7 currently does not support socket level networking access. This means companies like Cisco and SonicWall cannot develop VPN applications for the platform. Additionally IPSEC VPN isn’t supported either. So if you require your mobile workforce to VPN into the network to access corporate resources, Windows Phone 7 in its current state is not the recommended platform for you. This lack of low level networking access is also the reason for the lack of VOIP applications for the platform.

Limited Multi-Tasking and Background Processing – Another substantial downside to Windows Phone 7 is the current lack of support for multi-tasking and background processing. This was somewhat of a surprise, as most of its competitors have been supporting this for some time. It has been deemed a “future feature”, but no timetable has been given. While there is no real background processing support for applications, there is the ability to pause and pick up where an application left off when it restarts. However, this is not an actual pause, but rather the ability to save the current state of an application to the device’s Isolated Storage so that it can intelligently resume on the next startup.

Corporate Security – While the support for Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync policies is extensive, it should be noted that not all of the features are supported. Only a subset of the full Microsoft Exchange policies are supported in Windows Phone 7. Supported features include requiring a password, minimum password length, idle timeout frequency value, device wipe threshold, allowing simple passwords, password expiration, and password history. However, policies that are not supported include the ability to disable removable storage, Infrared Data Association (IrDA), desktop sync, remove desktop, or internet sharing.

No Side-Loading – While the MarketPlace Hub has many advantages, including a single-istribution channel for selling an application, there are some drawbacks. The biggest hindrance created by the process of a single-distribution channel is the inability to side load applications to a device. It is no longer possible to deploy a single installation package (CAB in Windows Mobile) to a device through your desktop USB connection. This is not only useful for testing, but is helpful if your user base is small and you don’t want your application to be public in the MarketPlace. The alternative to this scenario is to require authentication (e.g. login screen) when the user first starts the application. For testing, developers can unlock their device to deploy applications straight to their device, but there are limitations including a maximum number of applications on a device at one time (10). Microsoft has hinted that there will be the option of side-loading in the future, but the particulars of the process are still unknown.

Cannot Used Unmanaged Code – In previous versions of Windows Mobile, the .NET Compact Framework was not the only API available for developing applications. Developers could build programs that leveraged unmanaged code (not part of the .NET Compact Framework), including APIs for Java code. However, in line with the changes to the hardware specifications and requirements, Microsoft has restricted all Windows Phone 7 application development to the .NET Compact Framework. Unmanaged code will no longer be able to communicate to the device through other APIs. The major drawback is that communication with the device is limited to the options offered by the .NET Compact Framework.

While there are limitations to the new Windows Phone 7 Platform, Microsoft has publicly stated its commitment to regularly update its mobile offering and the platform is expected to evolve as a top notch competitor to iOS and Android in the near future. Evaluate the shortcomings carefully in comparison to the advantages that Windows Phone 7 offers. For more information on these advantages, check out “Top 5 Reasons To Consider Windows Phone 7 As Your Corporate Mobile Platform.”