More business features coming to Windows Phone 8

More business features coming to Windows Phone 8

Summary: Encryption, secure boot, a company hub and new way to privately load apps are all new features coming to Microsoft's Windows Phone 8.


In another of those "yes, the rumors were correct" moments today, Microsoft officials confirmed that a number of features meant to appeal to business users are coming to Windows Phone 8 with the "Apollo" operating system update.

(click on image above to expand)

Windows Phone 8 devices are going to inherit a number of the security features from the Windows NT core. Device encryption and UEFI secure boot are both baked into the platform, Microsoft officials said during the June 20 Windows Phone Summit in San Francisco.

Microsoft is not calling this new encryption "BitLocker Encryption" on the phone. (It also doesn't use that terminology on Windows RT devices). This subtle naming difference is because of differences in key escrow and manageability, officials said. The WP8 encryption will feature a secure key, as the technology is "derived from" BitLocker, officials added.

Microsoft also is making tweaks to the private sideloading capability on Windows Phones with the coming release. Businesses will be able to become a "registered app provider" for Windows Phone 8 so they will be able to circumvent submitting their apps through the Marketplace.

"You will be able to do this through your own catalog," said Alan Meeus, Microsoft Senior Product Marketing Manager. "Today, you do this (via) a hidden app in the Marketplace."

Microsoft will require those interested in doing this to pay some kind of yearly subscription fee, which Meeus said will be "nominal." There will be a way to certify your own applications and tokens for phones of those who are testing and/or installing those apps.

Another new feature with the platform is the custom company hub, a Microsoft-supplied mock-up image of which is featured in this post. This is the business equivalent of the Windows Phone gaming hub, providing a panoramic view of company-specific apps, IT site links and other proprietary information a company may want to supply to all of its employees.

Meeus wouldn't say more on what Microsoft is doing around advancements in managing phone devices. (It sounds like this could potentially be tied to whatever mystery management platform/infrastructure Microsoft is promising for Windows RT systems.)

Microsoft officials said today that they will be exposing both speech and voice-over-IP (VOIP) programming interfaces for any developer and any app. They said that the next version of Skype for Windows Phone will add the ability for users to see incoming Skype calls even if they are not in the Skype app -- something lacking in the 1.0 Skype client. They also will make it easier for third-party VOIP products to work with Windows Phone. Skype does not get baked into the Apollo Windows Phone OS, contrary to some reports.

"Skype still remains a separate app that will be downloadable from the Marketplace" even with Windows Phone 8, said Meeus.

Update: I've had a number of business users ask me about whether VPN might ever come to Windows Phone. Meeus said Microsoft has decided instead to rely on things like Secure SSL to address this need. "We consider it a better, light-weight approach" to providing this kind of functionality in the new BYOD (bring your own device) world that is adopting Web servcies, Meeus said.

Topics: SMBs, Microsoft, Mobility, Operating Systems, Software, Telcos, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • It's about time....

    Of course it's finally confirmed that WP7 was just a stepping stone to WP8. Now that WP8 means business, is this another nail in RIM's coffin? Microsoft will need to get the OS & Management tools PCI-DSS certified before a lot of businesses will take it seriously.

    Suffice to say I'm looking forward to getting some hands on time with the device, developer & management tools so I can judge for myself.
    • PCI DSS? That seems like an odd standard to strive for

      How many people use their phones (inside or outside an enterprise) to handle credit card transactions (not from a "wallet" point of view, but from the merchant and/or bank point of view)? I somehow doubt any cell phone could meet PCI DSS standards.
      • Security is important.

        Which is what originally was RIM's major selling point to businesses.

        And let's say for example you have a field sales person chalking up a deal, it would be fantastic if they could use the phone to initiate a credit card payment on the spot. Naturally this is far outside of the box.

        But, security still would be important for setting up direct debits, standing orders, or other data protection issues for external users. And it's the external users who require this level of protection.
      • i have seen at least one case

        I came to a doctor's office, and the front desk lady took my credit card, got out a smart phone, and processed a transaction for me. I was amazed.
      • Tow service took my payment this way

        Had car problems a month or so ago. The guy who towed my vehicle took my payment using his phone and a swipe attachment. I received a text confirmation of payment immediately. I've heard of other uses as well...
      • I'm guessing nobody heard about Square

        Being around for some time and growing businesses like crazy.

        BTW, I'm not trying to spam the company. I just find it funny that nobody has heard about something that is used all over the place where I live and they even have ads on TV.
    • <Name Here> Certified...

      So all they have to do is pay a certification group a large sum of money for a stamp of approval and they're good to go! You bet MS will get certified because they are probably in cahoots with the certification bodies as these certifications are nothing but a scheme to keep smaller vendors who can't afford to spend tens of thousands of dollars for certification and re-certification. All of this so potential customers can see them as a "safe" choice.
  • How Long

    After release will it take to be rooted so ordinary folk can sideload apps too?
    • We need this as an option

      Side-loading of apps should be provided, even if disabled by default and requiring an UAC-like dialog to confirm, for power-users. This whole "you can only download and install apps via the Windows Store" is already a deal-breaker for me on Windows 8 (and will be on future Windows versions). It's a nice feature for consumers to protect them from malware and viruses, but for professionals it can get in the way easily. What about open source apps that you can download, modify to fit your needs, and recompile by yourself? If I'm not able to use the apps that I want they way I want, this whole platform is useless. This is not what Windows used to be anymore.

      I can understand that the main intention of an app store is to make money and thus allowing the side-loading of apps is breaking the idea of a safe income. I just wonder that nobody is concerned about things like censorship, for example, or Apple's ability to remove just about any app from your device if they want to. I know, they are defending this by saying it's for security reasons, for them to be able to remove "evil bits" from your system, but just like any other "good" technology, it can also be used for something bad (nuclear energy as well as A-bombs, to give a blatant example). And who's to decide what's good and what's evil? Do you really trust a business for profit in this question?
      • Not Nobody

        But the voice at this time is small.
        When/If Win8 grows into a major player, this will become a much much bigger issue.

        If so, and not properly addressed, the jailbreaking world will be coming to an MS device near you.
      • Sideloading? Walled Garden!

        Only Approved applications can be loaded. Isn't this pretty much what folks have been criticizing Apple for?

      • Ditto!

        Blocking me from using my own hardware is an absolute deal breaker, on phones, tablets, and especially on desktops. I am completely amazed that the DOJ hasn't stepped in regarding Windows 8 on the desktop considering how upset they got with simply IE.

        I've been a huge Microsoft evangelist since .Net came out, but I can no longer support them when they're intentionally locking me out of my own hardware. It's so wrong on so many levels. I reluctantly switched from Windows Mobile (the prior version... 6.5 and below) to Android fully because of this.
        Software Architect 1982
      • Not sure if not being able to sideloade will be an issue

        as long as there are apps avaliable to do what people need.

        Though that is from someone who doesn't see a need to create a custom app for our business, though I'm not sure of other's need, so for some it could be an issue for some.

        How many, remains to be seen. Maybe through a custom app store that negates the need to sideload?
        William Farrel
    • Sideload apps

      Where would these sideload apps come from? What incentive to developers have to make sideload apps? It's not as if they are going to create a store from scratch to process payment as that's a TON of work.
      Jeff Kibuule
  • Side loading.

    From what I can tell, just about anyone can side-load apps.
    • Yes, for your network.

      You would have a license key for the phones you include within your network.

      You would not be able to side load onto phones who are not registered.

      Thus creating a subset of a walled garden within your company, that only phones in your company can side load specific applications registered to your company and to the phones in that group. No doubt also based on a level of granularity, so the CEO's have access to applications that say a field sales person does not.

      So yes, just about anyone can side-load apps with a few caveats.

      (If you want to side-load on your phone, set up a business and apply to Microsoft)
    • as a developer...

      you can install whatever you want on your own hardware. Just pay your license fee...simple...
  • Calendaring

    Any news on multiple/shared calendars?
    • eh? i already use mulitple calendars

      My Exchange calendar and various Windows Live calendars all work fine - i create an appointment/to-do and choose which it goes in. default is my live calendar. choose the colour, no extra app - was this a mango feature? haven't you got wp7.5?
      Is this what do you mean?
      • he means

        opening other peoples calendars, or a shared company calendar etc.