Thursday, August 6, 2009

Windows Mobile More than Just E-Mail

By: Rik Hoffelder

When you think of a mobile device you most likely think of e-mail, after all that is what most of us tend to use them for. Some may also think about web browsing or GPS, particularly when your flight has been delayed or cancelled. Oh yeah, by the way you can also make phone calls. If that's all you think about then you are missing the bigger picture.

With the proliferation of the iPhone people are starting to think about applications. Did you know Microsoft was thinking applications 10 years ago? In fact there are tens of thousands of applications available for Windows Mobile devices and they aren't all toys and games. That is just what is commercially available. Microsoft has had a publicly available SDK for their mobile platform for many years allowing smart businesses to develop their own mobile business applications. In fact a former employer created an OMA (remember that from Exchange 2000/2003?) like web interface for Exchange 5.5 with that SDK allowing that ten year old cheesy cell phone browser to access your mailbox remotely.
I'm sure a few are saying to yourself "Rik, iPhone does this too and it's much prettier." Well yes that is mostly true and it has produced some 200+ applications that are sure to please everyone on a crowded elevator if you know what I mean. But how does that really help my business? Shouldn't something like this on an employee's device cause concern for management? How about walking into the break room and seeing a few employees playing a baby shaking game? Do you think HR would be the slightest bit concerned that someone may be offended? What if that were a company owned device? Think management might be freaking out once they find out they can't control what an employee may be carrying on their iPhone?
That's simple my company only provides employees Blackberry devices for e-mail, we don't have to worry about such things ending up on company property and we have polices dealing with what an employee may do with their personal cell phones. That's all well and good, but does Blackberry offer a way for you develop your own business applications, provision them, patch them, and control what that device can do? Can iPhone? The answer to both is no. If you don't think this is important you are missing not only the point but an opportunity to get ahead of your competition. You are also missing the fact that in today's litigious society a lawsuit over what's on the device is not far away. Remember the government agent who stole national security information and walked out the door with on his mobile device? How safe do you think your data is on a device you can't control?
The Windows Mobile platform is more than just a device using Active Sync, it's much more. Windows Mobile is real mobility on your hip that can be controlled by System Center Mobile Device Manager. MDM greatly extends Active Sync policies and allows you to provision, patch, and manage the applications that can be installed or allowed to run on the device. Let's put this into perspective. I have just created a new sales application that allows my mobile sales force to book orders, generate billing statements, check inventory, and track shipping. How do I deploy that to a worldwide sales force that is rarely in the office? Easy, I use MDM to install the application the next time the device syncs.
Mobile Device Manager is the glue that binds your Active Directory forest, System Center Configuration Manager, and Windows Mobile devices into one comprehensive solution that far outclasses its competitors. It does require a little effort up front, more so that say a Blackberry, but it does so much more. Is your Blackberry a domain member? Can it be? Your Windows Mobile device can be, in fact you can prevent someone's personal device from even connecting because of the requirement for certificate-based authentication. Since the devices are now available to Active Directory you can group them into collections within Configuration Manager to help you better target the deployment of that new sales app. Because it's a real software deployment package, you can apply patches and upgrades as well as maintain an inventory of the devices you have and the content that is stored on them. The other guys don't even come close.
I would be remiss to omit the fact that the iPhone has revolutionized the way the general public sees mobile devices, it has brought a great awakening to a consumer market. Anything that gets your mind cranking is a great thing. So now that you are starting to think about what mobile can do for you business, isn't time you take a closer look at what Windows Mobility has been doing for a decade?
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