More business features coming to Windows Phone 8

Encryption, secure boot, a company hub and new way to privately load apps are all new features coming to Microsoft's Windows Phone 8.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor on

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.

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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.

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