RealTime IT News

Microsoft Looks to Crack Mobile Enterprise Nut

Microsoft  is introducing Windows Mobile 6 in the hopes of making inroads in the enterprise handset market.

The new platform now allows users to edit Microsoft Office applications on their handheld devices. The company said this and other enhancements to its mobile client will help it gain traction in a market that has been dominated by Research in Motion , Palm  and others, by giving customers a user experience that more closely resembles what they get on their PC.

The challenges have been adding PC-type capabilities and applications in a manner that doesn't hog too much memory and making those applications usable on a small screen.

"That's been a key strategy for us from the beginning," John Starkweather, product manager for Microsoft's Windows Mobile and Embedded Devices group, told internetnews.com. "We haven't added the big windows, but we added things you only used to be able to do on a PC."

According to Starkweather, the Mobile 6 platform uses a compact version of the .Net framework and a mobile version of SQL server to deliver more applications without creating a memory shortage. "By building those things into the platform, you can have a lightweight application in terms of memory with all the features built in," he said.

Mobile 6 also allows customers to add customer relationship management applications and other third-party business tools. And a new security policy included with the new client allows users to wipe their devices on their own if they lose them.

"A lot of IT departments are busy, or people are embarrassed to say they lost their device, so this way people can go in and self-administer," Starkweather said.

He also noted that the new client allows customers to view e-mail in HTML format, including e-mail from Web-based and POP mail servers, which means customers can read embedded charts and click on live links to documents located on SharePoint servers.

Will this be enough to crack the enterprise nut?

According to Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with the Yankee Group, Microsoft has struggled to get traction for its mobile clients in the enterprise space in large part because the user experience is significantly different from what customers are used to getting on the desktop.

"They're going to have to close that gap if they're going to become more relevant in that space," Kerravala told internetnews.com.

Kerravala noted that enterprises have yet to take full advantage of the fact that wireless access is becoming more and more common. "You can take advantage of that ubiquitous connectivity to raise people's productivity during those, what I call 'anytime' times," he said.

Chris Hazelton, who follows the mobile device market for research firm IDC, said the new ability to edit Office documents will be important to mobile workers.

"As you put more power in the device, you give more tools to users to be more of a road warrior than they had with prior versions of Windows Mobile," he told internetnews.com.

According to Hazelton, the new release shows that "Microsoft is targeting the enterprise very seriously. RIM was the first to market and cornered the enterprise market, and now Microsoft is focusing its efforts on the enterprise, as well."

The new client will ship worldwide in the second quarter.