Microsoft hints at Windows Phone 7 enterprise future

The company has said it is working out how best to allow the private distribution of applications for Windows Phone 7, an essential requirement for many businesses that want to use it

Microsoft is working on ways to make Windows Phone 7 more enterprise friendly by allowing applications to be distributed within organisations, the platform's developer experience chief has said.

Speaking to ZDNet UK on Wednesday, hours ahead of Windows Phone 7 handsets going on sale on Thursday, Brandon Watson said Microsoft had not yet decided on the best way to distribute apps in a closed fashion, as opposed to through the public-app marketplace.

"It's absolutely coming," Watson said. "We had a choice [ahead of the launch]. We could take a long list of things and do them in a mediocre way, or take a short list of things and do them well. Whether it will be side-loading [synchronising the device with a PC using a USB cable] or private marketplaces — we have to think long and hard about how we're going to implement that."

Watson stressed that while Windows Phone 7 is being targeted at consumers at launch, it already comes with "very strong SharePoint and Office integration for businesses", covering corporate email and calendar functionality. In addition, the platform provides enterprise-friendly security features such as remote wiping, but these are handled via the consumer-oriented Windows Live portal rather than via centralised corporate administration systems.

Microsoft has not disclosed how many apps are available for the mobile OS; Watson explained this by saying the company is more focused on the quality of the software than the quantity. He added that the developers of the launch apps included "an equal amount of large brands and indie developers". However, there are no big enterprise apps available at launch, he conceded.

Watson also suggested that an update coming "later next year" to Windows Phone 7's Internet Explorer (IE) browser should include support for Adobe Flash and HTML 5 — two widely used web technologies not currently supported in mobile IE.

In a break with its past approach with Windows Mobile, Microsoft will push out updates to Windows Phone 7 directly to handset users, without operator approval, Watson said. This will be done either through the Zune PC client or over-the-air, he added, depending on the size of the update. Anything bigger than 20MB in size will have to be installed via Zune, according to Watson.

Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi told ZDNet UK on Thursday that enterprises may want to hold back from deploying Windows Phone 7 until the platform becomes more suitable for them. She also suggested that the lack of application compatiblity with the older Windows Mobile platform might be another factor. "Considering the focus on consumers and the break in code, corporations wanting Microsoft might stick to Windows Mobile 6.5 for now," she said.

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