Best Smartphone for the Enterprise: Evaluating the Contenders: Page 3

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"Windows Phone 7 Series represents a major improvement to the platform that was badly needed from Microsoft. However, the delay between announcement and expected commercial availability in Q4 2009 will make this year a tough one. It will impact shipment volumes in the second and third quarters, as no vendor or carrier will want a warehouse full of Windows Phone 6.5 devices come the launch of 7," said Chris Jones, Canalys VP and principal analyst.

When Windows Phone 7 does arrive, though, things could turn around quickly. Goldschlag pointed out that most enterprise customers have Microsoft in the data center, and it makes sense to light up applications like SharePoint and Office Communications Server on smartphones.

Microsoft understands this and intends to capitalize on it.

According to a Microsoft spokesperson, “Windows Phone 7 . . . delivers the ultimate Microsoft Office experience with the Office hub. The hub brings together voice, picture and text notes with easy access to documents you have received thru email and documents you have downloaded from a Microsoft SharePoint Server. All this information is automatically synchronized with your PC or a corporate server and is now available and up to date from one easy to access location on your phone.”

Could this be history repeating itself? Microsoft has taken over so many spaces in this manner – desktops, word processing, the browser, media players, and on and on – that Windows Phone 7 fits the Microsoft playbook and history perfectly: 1) Enter a space with a lackluster product. 2) Get panned by critics and users alike. 3) Upgrade the platform until it is reasonably good. 4) Co-opt what competitors are doing well. 5) Dominate.

I doubt it’ll play out that neatly in the smartphone market. The competitors are too strong, and there are simply too many moving parts to for any one vendor to dominate. But my money is on Microsoft being a serious player in enterprise smartphone and consumer spaces alike soon after the arrival of Windows Phone 7.

The rest of the smartphone pack:

Android

While I firmly believe that Android will challenge in the enterprise soon, it’s just not happening now. The security and configuration features that IT departments demand simply aren’t ready yet.

When I contacted Google about this story, they declined an interview. According to a Google spokesperson, while they intend to target the enterprise in the future, their focus is solely on the consumer market for now.

Palm

Can things get any worse for Palm? You could argue that they were the original smartphone vendor, back when smartphones were PDAs with voice capabilities, yet they’ve been struggling for years.

While some of their new models, such as the Palm Pre, get decent reviews, few users want to actually own them. comScore ranks them last in smartphone platforms in the U.S. at a paltry 5.4 percent, which represents a drop of nearly 2 percent from the previous quarter. A couple more declines like that and they won’t even register.

According to numerous reports, Palm is actively seeking buyers, working with Goldman Sachs and Qatalyst Partners to hunt one down. My question is why would anyone buy Palm? With Palm, you tether yourself to a brand with little loyalty, one that underperforms even when sold at a loss. This is also a smartphone platform that is considered fourth- or fifth-tier at best.

Android is open, after all, with a robust app ecosystem, so why not simply leverage it? Why not try to make Symbian a success in the U.S.? Why not adopt one of the numerous non-Android Mobile Linux platforms floating around?

All of these seem like better options than buying Palm, unless, I suppose, you're looking for face time with Bono. A vanity purchase may be Palm's last, best hope.

Symbian and various non-Android Linux smartphone platforms

Symbian is by far the leading smartphone platform in the world, yet it has barely cracked the N.A. market. Of course, with RIM, Apple, Google and Microsoft all based in North America, while Symbian is the platform of choice for the likes of the Finnish company Nokia and Japan’s NTT DoCoMo, this likely won’t change in the near term. While Linux powers the popular Android platform, there are many other Linux flavors that overseas OEMs are experimenting with. Samsung’s bada, Nokia’s Maemo and the Nokia-Intel project MeeGo could all pose a challenge eventually, but unless they gain significant market share overseas, don’t expect them to threaten domestically any time soon.


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