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The top 6 enterprise issues for Windows Phone 7

By , Network World
March 18, 2010 05:49 PM ET

Network World - Sometime in the next few weeks, Microsoft will reveal features, services and shortcomings for Windows Phone 7 in the enterprise. It will be one of those good news/bad news moments for corporate IT departments.

So far, Microsoft's mobile platform executives have hammered at the consumer focus for the radically redesigned Windows Phone operating system. At this week's MIX10 Web developer conference, where details of the Windows Phone platform and development tools were unveiled, executives sidestepped, minimized or deflected nearly every question about how and how well the operating system will play in business mobility.

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"Not all the enterprise elements are being disclosed here," says Todd Brix, senior director, product management, for Microsoft's mobile communications business. "More will be coming up later in the spring."

But based on comments, acknowledgements and hints, here's what we know:

1. A platform shift

Microsoft's mobile platform is no longer enterprise-centered. It takes its cues and priorities from Microsoft's research on one issue: What is needed to make an emotionally compelling user experience for consumers.

The marketing mantra is that Windows Phone is the phone anyone can use for personal and business needs, desires and passions. "With Windows Phone 7, we said 'let's build a really compelling user experience' and we did an overhaul of many parts of the operating system," Brix says. That "experience" can then be enhanced and focused to meet specific enterprise needs. "Windows Phone 7 won't necessarily have all that Windows Mobile 6.5 has [for the enterprise]," he says.

The success of the iPhone and the fast-rising adoption of Google Android-based phones seem to justify that new focus and its relevance for enterprise users. And Brix says that Microsoft has been "kind of surprised [at the] ton of interest" in Windows Phone, expressed by independent software vendors (ISV) targeting business users.

2. Full break from previous Windows Mobile applications

Say goodbye to native applications, backwards compatibility and multitasking.

Applications written for the older Windows Mobile platform (now renamed Windows Phone Classic) were installed directly on the device and ran on the underlying OS kernel, analogous to applications on Windows PCs.

By contrast, all Windows Phone 7 applications execute within one of two Microsoft runtime environments: XNA for games, and Silverlight for all others.  

Furthermore, Windows Mobile applications will not run on Windows Phone devices, Microsoft officials confirmed. Though it has repeatedly emphasized that, depending on the application, developers may be able to re-use or readily adapt it for the new platform.

There are several implications to this. You won't be able to just load existing line-of-business Windows Mobile applications written in C/C++ or other languages on Windows Phone 7 devices. They will have to be redesigned and rewritten, though because of Microsoft's development strategy, a substantial amount of existing code in some applications can be reused directly or used with minor changes.

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