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TechnologyMar 07, 2011

Top 5 Reasons To Consider Windows Phone 7 As Your Corporate Mobile Platform

Kevin King

After three years of development and missteps, Microsoft has decided to completely revamp their mobile strategy by releasing a new smartphone platform, Windows Phone 7(WP7). Unlike previous editions of Windows Mobile which unsuccessfully aimed to bring the Windows experience to the mobile device, Windows Phone 7 takes a consumer first approach. The goal for the platform is to deliver compelling user experiences while providing developers the capability to leverage their existing toolset to build enterprise applications.

In line with Credera’s desire to be on the forefront of emerging technologies, this series will take an objective look at Windows Phone 7 and identify how it can be leveraged. In addition to opportunities, this series will also educate businesses on the potential shortfalls of Windows Phone 7 and when to avoid using it.

In this installment, we will discuss the Top 5 Reasons to consider leveraging Windows Phone 7 as your platform of choice for enterprise application development.

Enhanced UI – In previous versions of Windows Mobile, the user interface was focused on tasks. Items were organized by type (e.g. e-mail, SMS, Outlook task, etc.) instead of who or what the item was linked to. With WP7, the user interface is now “Contact-Centric” allowing for the intelligent grouping of items based on the person or group that they pertain to. Now, when a user selects a contact, they will also see everything related to that contact, including e-mails, SMS, Facebook and Twitter updates, etc. In addition to this philosophical change, WP7’s user interface is built around the interaction with floating icons that Microsoft calls “Live Tiles”. Live Tiles are customizable system icons that are extremely flexible and robust. Live Tiles can represent anything from applications, pictures, music, map locations, favorite websites, documents, and contacts.

Office Mobile, SharePoint, and Cloud Integration – Windows Phone 7 offers the most comprehensive and versatile Microsoft Office integration available in the smart phone market. With the Office Hub, users can access Word, Excel, PowerPoint and One Note documents directly on their devices. Not only can users review documents, but they can edit, save as a separate version, sync with their PC through ActiveSync, or even upload the document to a SharePoint document library. Along with SharePoint document library integration, users can also browse sites, view lists, calendars, announcements and also leverage SharePoint search. WP7 applications can also take advantage of cloud-based, rich internet application web services. This allows for all data storage to take place in the cloud and thus reduces the reliance on local storage. With all data living in the cloud as opposed to the device, the risk of losing data due to a lost or damaged device is greatly reduced.

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Corporate Security – With Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync(EAS), corporate security has become even more streamlined and easier to control. To begin with, all communication to and from the device can be encrypted using SSL Encryption (128/256 bit). In addition to encryption, corporate IT can manage individual device PINs and ActiveSync password policies. Also, withEAS, devices can be locked or completely wiped remotely, further protecting sensitive data.

Leverage Traditional .NET Technologies – Windows Phone 7 applications are developed entirely using the .NET Compact Framework, which is a subset of the full .NET Framework targeted at mobile platforms. In addition to leveraging internal .NET capabilities, Windows Phone 7 applications are built with Microsoft Silverlight (XNA Game Studio for 3D games), which has been Microsoft’s chosen platform for building rich internet applications (RIA). Not only can companies leverage existing skill sets like .NET and Silverlight, any preexisting Silverlight web or desktop applications can be ported to a WP7 application with substantial code reuse.

Hardware Standardization – With previous versions of Microsoft’s mobile platforms (Windows Mobile), the hardware specifications were very loose and hardly regulated by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). With no specificity and very little predictability, it was impossible to be sure exactly what type of environment your application would be running in. Everything from the phone’s registry keys to the types of buttons on the device was customizable by the OEM leading to platform fragmentation. With WP7, Microsoft has laid out specific hardware requirements and taken the ability to manipulate components of the operating system away from OEMs. With the increased predictability and standardization of WP7 devices, developing applications that work across all phones will be much easier.

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. It is important to do your due diligence when evaluating your enterprise mobile application platform. For more information on potential limitations of Windows Phone 7, check out “Top 5 Reasons To Wait Before Rolling Out Windows Phone 7 as Your Corporate Mobile Platform.”