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Windows Phone 7 takes Office, SharePoint to new level on mobile

With WP7, Office Mobile 'impediments' stripped away, Microsoft says

By , Network World
October 29, 2010 09:48 AM ET

Network World - Microsoft officials are exuding excitement over their prospects in the smartphone industry with the launch of Windows Phone 7. That's partly because the company knows exactly what previous versions of their mobile operating system did wrong.

While BlackBerry dominated the corporate IT market with phones optimized for e-mail and quick messages, and the iPhone and Android enticed both consumers and business users with touch screens and apps, Microsoft has long struggled to differentiate its mobile devices.

The first Windows Phone 7 smartphones

With Windows Phone 7, Microsoft needs to make phones that seem "cool" to the casual user as well as satisfy the needs of businesses. That's where integration with well-known Microsoft products such as Office and SharePoint come in.

Microsoft official Paul Bryan, a Windows Phone product manager, admits that Office Mobile on previous versions of Windows for smartphones was marred by "impediments" that made it difficult to navigate and edit documents.

"One of the biggest impediments was … the navigation and the touch capability of the phone experience itself," Bryan said during an interview this week at Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference in Redmond, Wash. "If you had a PowerPoint or an Excel spreadsheet on Windows Mobile 6.5 it did offer you editing capabilities, but the issue was accessing that because you weren't able to easily navigate the document."

Microsoft added a SharePoint client to Windows Mobile 6.5 devices earlier this year while also offering major desktop software upgrades with the 2010 versions of Office and SharePoint.

But it's only the arrival of Windows Phone 7 -- which hits U.S. stores on Nov. 8 -- that gives users a robust experience in accessing SharePoint on mobile devices, with SharePoint documents and sites being accessed from the same "hub" that includes Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote.

Office Mobile comes with all WP7 phones, making it available to consumer and business users. SharePoint, meanwhile, is licensed based on access to the SharePoint server, just like it would be with any desktop device, making it a business-only use case.

Bryan demonstrated a PowerPoint presentation on a prototype Windows Phone 7 device, showing how even decks with PowerPoint animations and builds render just like they do on a desktop computer.

Microsoft is requiring that all phones using its new mobile OS have a processor of at least 1GHz, which helps to quickly download and render complicated documents.

With Office Mobile and a SharePoint client on Windows Phone 7, documents can be synced to Windows Live SkyDrive or a SharePoint server. A likely use case is a professional on the go who wants to make a quick edit to a document as part of a collaborative process. It's less likely that a user would want to use the phone to create a new document, particularly a complicated one, but it would at least be possible.

Microsoft describes Office Mobile as great for "lightweight editing," and commenting on documents, but not necessarily for extensive edits, quite similarly to how Microsoft markets Office Web Apps, which Microsoft views as a complement to on-premise Office software rather than a replacement for it.

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