The BYOD movement is how Apple got into the enterprise, but if it were up to IT pros, you'd be issued a Windows Phone. That's what IBM has found in its work with large firms.
Jim Szafranski, senior VP of customer platform services at IBM's FIberlink unit, told Redmond Mag that many of its enterprise customers would like to see their employees use Windows Phone for work-related activities because of its tight integration with Microsoft's back-end systems, but he added that WP continues to trail in popularity to that of iPhones and Android devices.
"Actual end user momentum is trailing business interest," Szafranski said. "IT likes Microsoft and likes Windows. They've made a lot of investment in things like Active Directory and Exchange and as a result they have a lot of interest in seeing Windows Phone used by employees. I don't think anyone is going to be all Windows on mobile, but enterprises do want it and I think they have a strong opportunity when it comes to the enterprise side of purchase decisions."
Windows Phone's base remains smaller, at just 3% of the market at the end of Q4 2013, according to IDC. Still, that was a 46% growth over the year prior, but it's still being greatly outpaced by Android and iPhone. Android has ubiquity, iPhone has Apple's cool factor. Windows Phone can't seem to grab either.
IBM recently acquired Fiberlink Communications, maker of the MaaS360 mobile device management platform, and it was the strong IT interest in Windows Phone that made IBM decide to support WP, even with its meager installed base, Szafranski said. The company announced the addition of WP to the MaaS360 product line at the recent Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona and at the IBM Pulse conference in Las Vegas.
The company's MaaS360 Productivity Suite provides secure email, calendaring, contacts and a browser. This lets IT separate personal apps and data from enterprise software and information. Should the need arise, IT can remotely manage or wipe the enterprise side of the phone while leaving the user's personal data and apps untouched.
Windows Phone 8 has some significant enterprise-oriented features, which IBM and its customers have clearly recognized. WP8 supports the United Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) secure boot protocol and advanced app "sandboxing" to isolate apps within the phone. It has hardware-accelerated BitLocker technology to encrypt the entire device, Exchange ActiveSync management, Active Directory and Group Policy features for remote management, and Skype/VoIP integration.
The big question now is whether IBM will take up the flag for WP. It has no dog in this fight since it does not sell handsets. IBM is, for all intents and purposes, a services and software company. Hardware sales are now in the single-digits with the x86 server divestiture. Microsoft couldn't ask for a better ally. A seriously ironic one, given their histories, but a major ally none the less.