The initial Windows Phone 7 reviews are out and they are largely lukewarm. Most folks like the simplified interface, improved ease of use and hardware design, but are upset with the device's inability to maintain state, selective multi-tasking, lack of cut and paste, and too few applications. But the reviews are from a personal perspective. The biggest hit appears to be with games, something that businesses don't want, anyway.
I was reading longtime Microsoft watcher Mary-Jo Foley's column on Windows Phone 7 today and it got me thinking that this is actually what a business would like to have: A slow-rollout product rather than one that has tons of employees suddenly showing up demanding access, like the latest iPhone where the security exposures aren't yet known. This last was driven home by the severe security exposures the Mac version of FaceTime just demonstrated. (By the way, if you aren't aware of this problem, you should be. Nobody should be messing with the Mac version of FaceTime until this problem is corrected).
Let's explore why businesses should like Windows Phone 7 better, largely because it won't be adopted very quickly.
IT organizations, whether in the mid-market or enterprise, aren't set up to turn on a dime and adopt or even accept the latest technology. There aren't large teams of people sitting around waiting for the next iPhone or iPad to be announced so they can joyously frolic with the new technology and eagerly get it integrated with the complex networking, security, and application infrastructure that make up the typical IT environment.
In short, IT wants lots of notice, preferably years of notice, before having to deal with a new technology. As with most new phones, the Windows Phone 7 doesn't yet have the applications available that will allow it to be properly assured on a company network, wiped or tracked if lost, or properly encrypted.
In small numbers. this phone can be integrated, largely though its browser and office interfaces into some of the company's key services. But IT would say no to massive numbers, a strategy that clearly didn't work with the iPhone.
Windows Phone 7 Initial Impressions
There are three key shortcomings to the initial Windows Phone 7 platform that should deter large numbers of people at this point. This will give IT and third parties the time needed to create policies so that the phone can be safely used by the time large numbers of executives and employees are likely to want it.
The first, cut and paste, is largely a tempest in a teapot because few have ever used this feature. While it shows up negatively in reviews, it does little actual damage to the experience with the device. Multi-tasking slows background applications and is likely more of a blessing than a curse for an IT reviewer. It means malware can only run in the foreground, where it is vastly easier to discover. Finally is the inability to retain state when switching applications or suspending the phone-essentially not saving the latest status. This seriously damages the gaming experience, an activity that IT doesn't care much about. This last will be problematic for business applications as well, but might actually be an interim security advantage because as state is lost, so is the information that has been entered on the screen, making it unavailable to anyone who gained unauthorized access to the phone.
Every one of these problems will be corrected in the next three to 12 months, and the result will be a platform that has the potential of an iPhone or Android product. In the meantime, IT will have these three to 12 months to figure out how to deal with it. In addition, the business-application vendors also will have time to fully test their applications.
In the end, assuming IT uses the time to become familiar with the unique exposures in this new phone platform, the fact that Windows Phone 7 isn't yet a product folks will line up to buy is a good thing. IT can more easily deal with a small number of early adopters and can more easily say no before a wave of screaming executives demands access to critical systems before the related exposures are known or understood.