MS Following RIM's Drummer: Right for Windows Mobile?
Recently while at the MVP Summit, I attended a session on Microsoft's new System Center Mobile Device Manager (SCMDM) product. This piece of software, when set up and running, allows IT administrators to lock down many of the functions in Windows Mobile as well as deploy applications similar to the way admins do it on the desktop. I downloaded a version of the software, and while my test environment caused me more headaches than joyous occassions, the product does look like it has substantial promise. But that's not the point of this piece - I'm more interested in the strategy of mobile device administration that it allows corporations to utilize, and concerned that it may tempt companies to adopt a rollout strategy that may not be appropriate for Windows Mobile.
If you're the IT Executive of a company and you wake up one morning thinking "I want all my users to be able to use a Windows Mobile device", you have two options. First, you could get budget approval for training, implementation, and deployment of company-purchased devices (perhaps eventually shifting the cost to the user, but most likely the company will spend a considerable chunk of change on the actual devices). This would also require your IT department to receive devices in bulk, and configure them in bulk (This is where many other company's managment suites come into play, as installed agents put on devices before users ever receive them from IT).
Of course you could go another route - the route popularized by RIM. In this route, your users learn about a great new device they can use to get their work e-mail and such at home, called a Blackberry. They go to their cell phone company see Blackberries displayed in the store. User buys device, user contacts their IT department and receives enrollment instructions. User plugs in enrollment values, device downloads settings from IT's servers, and device is configured.
Obviously the second model shifts much of the physical handling of the device to the end user, and this is the model SCMDM fits: Give the user an enrollment password and let them set it up. This model shifts the IT department from an active role in deployment to a passive one - a good thing as far as enterprise adoption is concerned, right? Well maybe not quite - because the model also depends on users taking the first step: namely knowing about and buying the device.
Since Windows Mobile 5, Microsoft has focused many resources (Some say too many) on enterprise functionality, with SCMDM being the latest offering. But if you want your device to be successful in the enterprise, is it a good idea to shift responsibility for buying the device to the user? Especially since Windows Mobile has yet to reach the name recognition of Blackberry. It just concerns me that while SCMDM is a great tool for enterprises, it may cause them to put the responsibility of buying a device on their users, which may in turn actually hurt Windows Mobile adoption in enterprise environments. This is really bad for Windows Mobile as a platform, as it prides itself on its budding enterprise support.But if users never buy the devices, they can't be used in the enterprise!
What do you think - is the model of "user buys device" going to help or hurt Windows Mobile, with special attention to enterprise adoption of the platform (and perhaps enterprise conversion from Blackberry to WM).
__________________ Dr. Jon Westfall, MCSE, MS-MVP
Executive Editor - Android Thoughts
News Editor - Windows Phone Thoughts
I think that this could actually help. The organization that I work for has a relatively loose policy on connecting to the system and honestly I have very little need for "always connected" status right now (the organization doesn't take advantage of what is possible here). So there is little to no advantage for me.
My dad on the other hand works for a very large corporation as a project manager; he travels frequently for his position as well. His company has a very locked down IT department. He uses a win mobile pda right now that is essentially half of his brain. He has worked though some work arounds with the corporate IT people but essentially has a local back up and little or no synching. The ability for him to purchase the device, putting in the password, and having access would be a great step forward.
at my company we have always had Blackberries. Users are given a Blackberry by the company. This is the only way a user gets into the corporate network where I work. Users are not allowed to plug into our corporate network with their own PDA, no matter which brand.
HOWEVER - I did see one of the marketing people tapping away on a Palm Treo 750w the other day.
There's nothing wrong with simplifying life of IT manager, but the point is WILL END USER WANT TO BUY WM DEVICE?! Crackberry has a reputation for being reliable, secure, and easy to use for text and email. iPhone, looks like it moving in to join the corporate game with iPhone 2, nice interface and a "halo of glory" carried around by Apple fanboyz, simply, hype. What do we know about WM? outdated interface, clumsy, unstable, underpowered. That if you read WM blogs that is. Would you want to buy this device?
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My experiences with the MS Mobile product is that MS gets close in features, functionality and quality but never seems to nail something on the head. There are too many 3rd party/aftermarket applications out there that trounce what MS has to offer from the core. It is a result of trying to be everything to everyone which, of course, means you are missing something for everyone. Never the less, I have been a faithful Mobile user for years but am concerned that MS has lost the edge on creativity and could find its lead starting to slowly dwindle away.
The blackberry model works – so does the UI for the iPhone. It will be interesting to watch iPhone try to tackle blackberry in the business world – frankly I think it will fail – it’s not where their specialty is.
Where am I going with this rant? MS needs to update and take a hard look at its competition – including all of those 3rd party applications that build better applications for the Windows Mobile OS. MS needs to learn from Palm and not rest on its laurels and rely on 3rd Party applications to fix what is wrong with the operating system. Having said this – following RIM’s drum beat will benefit MS but come on guys – start taking the lead…
I think that, in the long run, this model may be about the only way that some people will ever get the chance to use a Windows Mobile device and to experience firsthand just what useful tools they can be. Especially during periods of less-than-booming economic times, enterprises will continue to balk at the cost of supplying the mobile hardware and to use the challenges of corporate-wide deployment as a reason (excuse?) not to take the plunge.
My greatest concern with something like SCMDM is that it might allow IT departments to be a little too aggressive with unreasonable device controls and lock-downs. For example, for some goofy reason my employer decided that it would force a 10-second backlight time-out as part of its protocols; we were simply denied access to change that setting. It took weeks of concerted belly-aching to convince the powers that be to let US control a few simple things like backlight, Today themes, etc.
The truth is that, if I HAD to, I'd tolerate a lot of stringent rules and protocols just to keep the use of my Windows Mobile device. I just hope that none of us HAS to.