Windows Phone at TechEd 2010

I’m at TechEd in New Orleans this week–you can see my coverage of the show on the SuperSite for Windows–and wanted to discuss some of the Windows Phone announcements that happened today. These announcements are also discussed in a Windows Phone team blog posting by Paul Bryan, who I met with today.

To summarize the plan, Microsoft is approaching Windows Phone business functionality in the same way that it is approaching the phone generally. That is, they are focusing on core scenarios only in the first release, and intend to nail those experiences. But they are also (temporarily) ignoring some less-necessary scenarios/functionality as a result.

This approach is, I think, the right one. But it does open up Windows Phone to some easy criticism. This is a very basic reality that we’re just going to have to deal with. And hope, of course, that Microsoft works to rapidly close the gaps after the initial Windows Phone release later this year. Time will tell.

Anyway, here’s what they announced, based on the notes from my meeting.

Smart design. Windows Phone is designed to meet the needs of business customers, with information worker capabilities around email, calendar, and contacts, integrated to make it more effective and efficient at doing everyday tasks. It’s a great system for one-handed email triaging (like the iPhone, and unlike Windows Mobile). It provides simple, clear views of all your email, urgent email, flagged email, and so on. You can select multiple messages easily, and deal with them in a batch format. There is deep integration with Exchange Server, mapping all of the information from the server to the phone user experience. There is also integration between calendar and email, so that when you get an email with scheduling information, you can see if there is a conflict in your schedule right there in the email, and resolve the conflict if there is one, all without leaving the message. Windows Phone supports multiple email accounts, including Exchange, and you can view them all in a single view if desired.

Integrated experiences. In keeping with the Windows Phone panoramic experience model, the Office hub brings together integrated experiences around Office and the documents you have on your phone. From the OneNote pane, you can take notes, take photos, and combine them with text notes and voice notes, and sync with your PC. There’s also deep integration with SharePoint, and you can sync documents and use them offline with your phone. (What’s missing, curiously, is deep integration with SkyDrive for consumers. This could change, but I believe that won’t be available in generation 1.)

Distribution of private applications. Microsoft hasn’t finalized its plans yet, but businesses that standardize on Windows Phone need some way to securely distribute private (in-house) applications to employees. The most likely scenario is modeled after a program that’s available now where developers can ship beta versions of apps to a select group of users outside of the Windows Marketplace for Mobile. Basically, they email people a link. When accessed on the phone, you are directed to a private area of the Marketplace where you can download the app. There will be more work around this area going forward.

Management. Microsoft will provide businesses with a core set of management capabilities for Windows Phone that includes such things as PIN and password enforcement, the ability to reset a device to factory settings, remote wipe, and so on. There is Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) management policy support, but only around core scenarios, those things that businesses use most.

The message here, again, is that Windows Phone 7 will hit the high points. But it will be a subset of Windows Mobile 6.5, from an enterprise management perspective, and for this (and other reasons), Windows Mobile 6.5-based devices will continue to hit the market and be supported for some time to come.

My expectation/hope is that Microsoft improves Windows Phone rapidly to close the gaps. But again, it will be easy to criticize this system until those gaps are closed. I think it was the right decision. But it’s hard not to keep drawing a comparison with the Zune 2.0 PC software, which was also rewritten from scratch. It was beautiful but lacked some key features. Over time, they fixed it. But two years later, it’s still gorgeous and functional, but missing a few things (compared to WMP, Media Center, whatever). I hope they can do better with Windows Phone, if only because the market for these devices is potentially so much bigger.

So that’s all for now. :) Back to the show…

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8 Responses to Windows Phone at TechEd 2010

  1. interframe says:

    I think this all goes back to when Microsoft talked about “innovating at scale”. Windows Phone is going to be in a market where millions of devices will sell and be supported from multiple device makers, unlike Zune.

    And lets face it, Zune isn’t Windows, so of course Microsoft will be incredibly more aggressive with Windows Phone than they ever were with Zune, because the smartphone market is dead serious. The MP3 player market? Not so much. Not at all considering that these devices are MP3 players or in Microsoft’s view: mini-PCs (in terms of the functionality capable, not UI-wise).

    So of course MS will be aggressively serious about Windows Phone unlike Zune, WMC or WMP. Simply because the smartphone market threatens their crown jewel: Windows.

  2. gpsarakis says:

    I agree, I think we’ll get fast updates to WP7, because MS knows the things that are missing and they know those can be used to attack the platform. We could very well get Android like quick updates (every 2 or so months?) until WP7 hits a point where it can pretty much do everything the others can. After that MS can slow it down to every 6 months if they want and work out new features the others don’t have etc.

    Wasn’t there a story that even Android development/updates will now slow down to once a year like Apple does it? The mad rush to v2.2 seems to have brought with it all the core and basic features needed, so now there’s no real rush because it’s no longer “behind”. MS would be silly not to try and mimic this cycle till they’ve “cought up” with iPhone and Android on everything.

  3. reiderator says:

    My current phone contract ends this October and I really wanted a Windows phone, but it’s a tossup between that and a new Android phone. I have a Zune HD already and there are only 22 apps available after 7 months. My T-Mobile G1 is still serviceable and I have it customized to my liking….but this is all done with apps. I’m afraid that if MS doesn’t move more quickly than they’ve demonstrated in the past, people like me who are actually excited by Windows Phone will just go for Android anyway, and wait another 2 years to see where Windows Phone goes.

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      I don’t think the app problem on Zune HD will repeat itself on WP. In fact, I’m positive of it. Zune HD app availability was/is deliberately limited.

      But starting next month, Microsoft will be seeding developers with pre-production Windows Phone devices so they can really start in earnest with new WP apps. I suspect there will be a good app ecosystem and, over time, one that rivals the other major smart phone platforms.

      • gpsarakis says:

        Hearing how it takes very little time to port apps to WP7 thanks to silverlight and xna the app number for WP7 should grow faster compared to others. There are some limitations that Android doesn’t have in this first release of WP7 but I hope MS ads those fast (like sockets, and other things apps might need in order to work).

      • interframe says:

        The only reason Android seems to have to most momentum or seems like the most exciting mobile platform is because it is has reached a certain point of maturity.

        Windows Phone will obviously reach this point as well and it’ll probably be even more exciting than Android in it’s current phase.

        Like I pointed out before, Microsoft will be far more aggressive with Windows Phone than Zune, Windows Media Center or such similar products; simply because the smartphone market is more serious than the market for set-top boxes and MP3 players. Far more serious and a long-term deadly threat to their profit machine: Windows.

        So to think that Microsoft wont be aggressively serious about Windows Phone is almost like saying the executives of the company want to shut it down and give back shares to remaining shareholders. Now that sounds crazy, but the smartphone market, unlike MP3 players and set-top boxes, is a deadly and serious threat to the product that keeps most of Microsoft alive.

      • roteague says:

        Agreed. Writing apps for Zune HD was a real pain. In order to build Zune HD apps you had to use XNA. XNA is designed for games, not for apps (it even lacks basic UI elements like Text Boxes,, Labels etc.).

        As for WP7, I personally have two apps in development, and I’m sure there are a lot of .NET programmers out there who are doing the same. Silverlight is a great platform for buidling WP7 apps.

        I only hope that Microsoft allows native code access for “select” companies, like Skype, etc.

  4. chrisneuendorf says:

    What about data-at-rest encryption? I consider that one of the “big 3″ policies that I consider when approving a device. (1) PIN Password (2) Remote Wipe (3) Device Encryption.

    WinMo 6.5 does it, iPhone does it, Droid doesn’t. :) I know WP7 will at some point, but I’m starting to think it won’t at launch.

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