Microsoft to Make Leaps in the Mobile Enterprise

Shocking developments in the mobile enterprise race show the market's incredible volatility, according to a new survey by Aberdeen Group. The survey looked at mobile app deployment plans by platform--Apple iOS, Android, Windows 8/Windows Phone and BlackBerry--covering both tablets and phones.

"The plans for mobile app deployment in 2013 were a big surprise," says Aberdeen research director Andrew Borg. Aberdeen plans to release its official findings next week, but gave CIO.com a sneak peek.

The data shows Microsoft Windows Phone 8 and Surface tablets poised to make a profound leap, as CIOs hope to retake control of the mobile enterprise. Apple iPhones and iPads may be reaching a point of saturation. Google phones and tablets are holding steady, but will users let loose the reins?

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As for BlackBerry, the future looks bleak.

Aberdeen surveyed 348 organizations about their mobile strategy in November and December last year. The chart above shows the percentage of respondents currently deploying apps on a given mobile platform, as well as the percentage of respondents planning to build apps on the platform for the first time in 2013.

Here's a breakdown of what's behind the numbers.

Microsoft, Don't Call It a Comeback

Microsoft was the big winner with 35 percent of respondents planning to develop apps on the Surface tablet over the next 12 months, in addition to 8 percent currently deployed. Windows Phone fared well, too, with 25 percent planning to develop apps on Windows Phone, in addition to 26 percent already deployed.

"The data shows that IT is holding out hope that Microsoft's mobile strategy will be well-integrated with their overall data center and cloud strategy," Borg says. "You might say IT has been waiting for Microsoft to make its enterprise mobile play."

Microsoft, though, might have already disappointed respondents. The Aberdeen survey was conducted late last year before all the criticism of Surface RT, well, surfaced and before the Surface Pro was even released. At the time, there was hope that Microsoft would deliver a completely integrated strategy.

But the Windows 8 user interface consistency from smartphone to tablet to desktop did not extend to the back end. In other words, the primary criticism of Surface RT is that the apps are not compatible with the rest of Windows 8. Surface RT is not in the same app ecosystem as Windows 8.

"IT and lines of business were looking for a point of consolidation and integration with backend services," Borg says. "This lack of integration from IT's perspective is a disappointment."

Microsoft blew the branding and messaging opportunity, Borg explains. The average consumer didn't grasp the difference between Surface RT and Surface Pro. Many simply and wrongly expected Surface RT to be a Windows laptop replacement.

It's too bad, because Surface RT is a pretty slick device with a nice industrial design and user interface, Borg says. Among all tablets, Surface RT boasts the best integration with Office. It shouldn't matter that it's not tied to Windows 8 applications on the desktop. Apple iOS apps aren't compatible with OS X, nor are Android apps with Chrome OS.

"Surface RT was badly marketed," Borg says.

March of the Androids

Google Android smartphones and tablets are steadily marching into the enterprise. According to the Aberdeen survey, 23 percent of respondents plan to develop apps on Android tablets over the next 12 months, in addition to 40 percent currently deployed. And 17 percent plan to develop apps on Android smartphones, in addition to 55 percent currently deployed.

These numbers show incremental growth for the platform, which is nothing unexpected.

However, this doesn't mean that Android will continue to plod along. The survey was taken before Samsung announced the Galaxy S4 smartphone, which is expected to be released in late April. For the enterprise, the most compelling feature is KNOX, a dual-persona solution at the kernel layer. If the dual-persona concept takes off, then Android platform adoption in the enterprise could spike.

But dual-persona acceptance on the smartphone is far from a sure thing. For starters, dual-persona has been in the market for at least a year and has had negligible adoption in the enterprise. While dual-persona allows end users to securely separate personal data from work data on a corporate device, we're living in a Bring Your Own Device, or BYOD, world.

"With BYOD, the company is going to put its data on your device and borrow some of your assets that you bought--RAM, memory, processor--all of which may decrease performance of your device," Borg says. "Will end users permit that? It's unclear."

Apple's Microsoft Problem

Apple's iPhone and iPad have been enterprise sensations, but there are signs pointing to challenges ahead. In the Aberdeen survey, 15 percent of respondents plan to develop apps for the first time on iPhone and iPad over the next 12 months, with 63 percent and 61 percent currently deployed, respectively.

"We're a little surprised that the numbers show it to be slowing down," Borg says. "Granted, three-quarters of the organizations are still developing for the platform, greater than any other platform. But it could be getting to a saturation point."

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As the dominant mobile enterprise player with the biggest app store and the largest percentage of developers, Apple seems to be sitting in the catbird seat. The danger is complacency and lack of innovation. Think: Microsoft during its reign on the desktop.

Today, iOS is looking long in the tooth. Microsoft and BlackBerry have more advanced operating systems. Samsung has shown innovation advancing the Android OS. Where art thou, Apple? iPhone and iPad apps don't talk to each other, don't share data. In comparison, Windows Phone 8 supports inter-app communication, which makes for a fluid user experience.

"If Apple does not innovate on the OS, it may impact enterprise acceptance and continued commitment to deploy apps on the Apple platform," Borg says.

Storm Clouds Over BlackBerry

And then there's BlackBerry. The Aberdeen survey showed a paltry 6 percent of respondents plan to develop apps on the BlackBerry PlayBook over the next 12 months, with only 15 percent currently deployed. On the BlackBerry smartphone, 5 percent plan to develop apps, with 49 percent currently deployed.

"This data does not speak optimistically for BlackBerry's outlook," Borg says. "There are definitely storm clouds over Canada."

Borg does expect the smartphone number to creep up given the release of BlackBerry 10, which appears to be a solid product, but not by much. Meanwhile, the PlayBook outlook is looking worse, as BlackBerry hasn't announced anything of significance with it.

The problem, of course, is that BlackBerry has lost its credibility. It didn't keep its promises, in terms of timeframe delivery. BlackBerry 10 was delayed time and again until its launch earlier this year. The result is that businesses--once, BlackBerry's biggest advocate--have all but abandoned the platform.

"From the data perspective, BlackBerry has significant challenges in 2013," Borg says. "There's a loss of momentum and a lack of confidence in their future from end-users. In addition, BlackBerry has isolated itself from advocates, including analysts. How this all will play out in 2013 remains to be seen."

Tom Kaneshige covers Apple, BYOD and Consumerization of IT for CIO.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn. Email Tom at tkaneshige@cio.com

This story, "Microsoft to Make Leaps in the Mobile Enterprise" was originally published by CIO.

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