What will Windows Mango mean for business?

We take a look at what Microsoft's next mobile operating system has to offer the corporate world.

Windows Mango

The only thing users have to shell out for to make full use of the Office365 suite is the monthly subscription, which costs between 4 and 17.75 per person.

Windows Phone 7 offers an average payback period of 12 months with an average three year return on investment (ROI) of 309 per cent, according to Microsoft.

"Many business IT folk will be fine with the functional durability of Windows Phone 7, but the real issue is user appeal and, bluntly, the historical lack of it," Bamforth added.

Change for the worst

Although Windows Mobile was previously a leader in the business mobile market, it's now moved right down the scale, because of its lack of consumer appeal.

"In many mobile markets, consumerisation and user choice are on a rapidly rising trajectory user choices are typically iPhone and Android, not Microsoft or even RIM," said Bamforth.

"In addition to the table stakes of getting the mobile functionality right (security, remote kill and wipe, communications integration and so on.), Microsoft has to deliver something with appeal. It is slightly reliant on hardware partners delivering too, and perhaps the widening of these relationships, including with Nokia may help produce an aspirational business brand. But it will need much work," he added.

Nokia is due to start rolling out Windows Phone Mango devices in the future, possibly before 2012, but the Finnish mobile giant doesn't have the greatest reputation in the business space.

Once a leader because of its reasonable pricing structure for businesses, when only voice calls mattered, it was pushed to the back of the queue when data and mobile email entered the market.

That said, Microsoft is willing to try and redeem some of its business kudos with developments in Windows Phone 7, coming with the Mango update. So what's new?

New and improved

Security hasn't always been a priority with Microsoft, like it has for RIM. New or enhanced security features include the ability to use alphanumeric passwords, not just simple PINs that are easy to guess, or hack. Alphanumeric passwords gives users the opportunity to set more complex passwords.

The browser has been improved, thanks to the addition of Microsoft's Internet Explorer 9 browser. Supporting HTML 5, there are a wealth of web-based, graphic rich applications that weren't previously available on Windows Phone 7.

Unified Communications takes a starring role on Windows Phone Mango. Windows Phone 7, pre-Mango, supports Sharepoint already, but Mango offers the free Lync Mobile app, allowing users to connect with Microsoft Lync, previously known as Office Communications Server. Mango Lync works with either a Lync server behind the corporate firewall or a cloud-based system forming part of the Microsoft Office 365 suite.

Office 365 itself is an addition to Windows Phone Mango. It offers auto discovery and auto provisioning capabilities, meaning companies already using Exchange-based services can connect via mobile too.

If the main focus of business mobile phone use is email, there's good news as Microsoft has updated its Exchange functionality. Previously, users could only search for emails downloaded onto the device. Now they can search through all the emails on the server too. This is something that is present on the iPhone, but not on BlackBerry or Android.

Additional email tweaks on Windows Phone Mango allow users to view whole conversations with specific groups or contacts. It's all displayed in the conversation view, so users can see exactly what they've sent and received on stream. These sync with PC conversations, as long as that rule is supported on the Exchange server or Office 365 account.

Email folders can be pinned to the homescreen, so instead of trawling through email inboxes, users can view every email filtered into a folder (via Outlook on PC) directly on their homescreen.

Easier management

Organisations already running Windows-based desktops and mobiles will find devices based on Mango easy to roll out and manage too. But, perhaps one of the most exciting additions for IT managers in Windows Phone 7 is Information Rights Management. This will allow IT administrators to monitor and allow/deny access to certain Exchange functions, whether users are running Outlook or Office Mobile on their devices.

IT managers can block employees from downloading, forwarding or printing certain attachments or deny an email getting through to a user's phone. Credentials can also be set to ensure devices are protected against viruses or hacks.

However, Bamforth thinks the majority of these features still neglect business users and what they need from a smartphone platform.

"Many of the headline Mango (7.5) features seem more in line with consumer needs rather than those of IT, for example, better social media integration," he said.

"However, this might help IT sell' Windows Phone 7/7.5 to users internally. For international markets, the movement of other hardware players into the Windows 7 eco system might also be positive opening up a wider range of solid hardware products in a wide set of geographies."

Consumerisation in action

In theory, that should mean, if Windows Phone Mango devices are more attractive to consumers, employees will be happier to use them for business too. We certainly saw this with iOS, as businesses began to roll out Apple's devices in response to employee demand and devices being brought into the corporate world through the back door.

"No matter how great a new raft of Windows Phone 7.5 devices, the results of the Google Motorola tie-up, or the iPhone 5, IT managers are going to have to deal with a broad set of mobile devices, some owned by employees, some supplied by the business," Bamforth added.

"They are going to have to deliver a consistent and secure platform, and use tools to coordinate, not control, the user experience to avoid stifling mobile productivity."

Windows Phone fast facts

Windows Phone 7 can run on an existing Exchange server, reducing costs and ensuring resources can be used for value-added tasks elsewhere.

Office365 costs will cost from 4 per user, per month with a much better ROI in comparison to BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES).

There are more than 3,000 applications available on Windows Marketplace, including a large range of CRM tools.

Internet Explorer 9 debuts on Windows Phone 7 and offers the same rendering engine as the PC version of Internet Explorer 9.

Windows Phone 7 phones ship with version 14.0 of the EAS protocol that can be configured by IT departments.

Click here for our first look review of Windows Phone Mango.

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