OPINION: Windows Phone 7 - An Excellent Business Phone

OPINION: Windows Phone 7 - An Excellent Business Phone

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In this month’s OPINION blog we will look at Windows Phone 7 as a business phone. Windows Phone 7 contains several business oriented features which make it a powerful tool and can improve productivity in the business environment.

We want to show you:

  • Office Applications - Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint in your pocket. Read, edit and review documents on the go.
  • SharePoint Integration – Collaborate on documents hosted on your corporate SharePoint server.
  • Metro –A clean, modern and easy to use interface; a real time saver.
  • How To Write Applications -Use existing skills to write applications quickly. Develop apps for you customers or deploy secure internal use apps on the corporate network.

 

Office Applications - A Mobile Office in Your Pocket

 

Outlook


The user interface really shines here with extremely clear views of your calendar and emails even when supporting multiple mailboxes and calendars. Reading and even composing emails is easy and if you don’t like a touchscreen keyboard (even though the Windows Phone 7 one is rather nice) then you always have the option of getting a phone with a physical keyboard. Of course this is all provided with slick Microsoft Exchange integration.

I have to admit that I never thought I would be excited by an email/calendar application but after using Outlook on Windows Phone 7 I couldn’t have been more wrong.

 

The Office Hub

The Office hub is the home to Word, Excel and PowerPoint: all able to read and edit Office 2003/2007/2010 documents. The fidelity and accuracy is great and the apps provide basic editing and formatting functionality. In addition to reading and basic editing you can also highlight sections of the documents and add review comments, perfect for reviewing on the move.

I found PowerPoint particularly impressive with it even rendering the transitions between the slides!

image Figure 1 - The Office Hub

 

SharePoint Integration

Integration with SharePoint 2010 is the best part of the Office hub. It’s simple:

  1. Connect the Windows Phone 7 to your corporate Wi-Fi network
  2. Go to the SharePoint page on the office hub and enter the URL of your corporate SharePoint site.
  3. Tap on the document library containing your documents
  4. Open Office documents with a simple tap

The best bit: if your IT department has exposed an extranet SharePoint portal then you can download and open your documents when out of the office.

image Figure 2 - Connecting to SharePoint

 

Metro - A New User Interface Experience

The Windows Phone 7 user interface is a complete departure from previous phones and is based on the Metro design language; it looks and feels fast, clean and modern. The new hubs group common information and actions together meaning you spend more time working and less time staring at your phone trying to find what you need.

The new start screen shows you your next appointment, number of unread emails and social updates from friends and colleagues as well as providing quick links to hubs such as Office or People.

 

Building Your Own Applications

There are two main types of applications that you may have within your organisation:

  1. Applications that are designed and built to support your business
  2. Applications that are intended for use by your customers.

Windows Phone 7 supports both of these scenarios although it’s fair to say there are some caveats as outlined below.

Writing Applications for Windows Phone 7

Windows Phone 7 uses Microsoft Silverlight as a platform for writing applications. This enables developers with either Silverlight or Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) experience to write applications on Windows Phone 7 using existing knowledge and familiar tools. This significantly reduces the cost of developer training.

Some new libraries are provided to access phone specific functions such as the accelerometer, camera and GPS but these are quite easily picked up by experienced .NET developers.

Getting started with developing applications is a simple case of downloading the Windows Phone 7 Software Development Kit and installing it. This includes Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone, Microsoft Expression Blend for Windows Phone and the Windows Phone 7 emulator and is completely free.

Deployment and the Marketplace

In order to deploy applications to Windows Phone 7 devices there are three routes:

  1. Developer unlock a device and deploy using Visual Studio; however this approach is intended to be used for development only and has a limited number of device unlocks so cannot be used for large scale deployment.
  2. Publish the application on the Marketplace as a Beta application. This allows a closed list of users to install the application without requiring developer unlocked phones; this supports more devices (although not unlimited) and is time limited so the application will only stay on the devices for a limited period of time.
  3. Deploy the application to the Marketplace as a public application. This would be downloadable by anyone, which is fine for an application targeting your customers but less so for an internal application; however, I outline a possible solution below.

 

Deploying Internal Applications

Given all of the above you might be thinking that you cannot deploy internal business applications on Windows Phone 7. I think that as long as you are aware that theoretically anyone can download your application and code for it then you can deploy to the Marketplace securely.

It’s possible to write an application, deploy it to the Marketplace and to provide your employees with a link directly to the application on the Marketplace for installation on their Windows Phone 7 devices. The application would then require a connection to a service inside your corporate network in order to validate and provision credentials to allow it to access corporate resources. In this way you can allow anyone to download the application but not connect to any data sources unless they or either on the corporate network or have been at some point with valid credentials.

image

Figure 3 - Example corporate login

Since the Windows Phone 7 devices support Wi-Fi you do not have to expose corporate data via the internet to support applications on the phone, they can be exposed using your existing Wi-Fi connectivity.

There are other ways that this could also be secured but it does show that even without the ability to deploy applications directly to the phone you can still produce internal corporate applications in a secure manner.

Need Help with Windows Phone 7?

If you are thinking of taking a look at Windows Phone 7 for business use but were put off by the perceived consumer focus, don’t be. If you feel that you need help or would like to discuss options around development of applications for Windows Phone 7 then contact your Application Development Manager or Technical Account Manager.

Click the links below for more details on how Premier Support UK can help:

Premier Support for Windows Phone 7 is unchanged from the Windows Mobile platform. That is, Premier Support can assist with issues such as: Exchange, Outlook, Activesync and Windows Phone 7 Operating System.

Summary

I really believe that Windows Phone 7 can be used as a business phone and I’ve not been this excited about a phone in a long time.  Why do I think this:

  1. The phone is ready to be used in a business environment with features such as SharePoint integration, the Office hub and support for Microsoft Exchange.
  2. Software can be developed using existing tools and skills
  3. Whilst you cannot currently perform a private deployment it is certainly possible to secure applications for only employee access.

Thanks for reading

Robert Garfoot
Premier Application Development Manager
http://garfoot.com/blog
http://blogs.msdn.com/b/ukadc/

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  • Our company have used windows mobile phones for the last 5 years or so but recently, as a local government organisation, have had to look at the GCX code of connection agreement. 6.5 was never secure enough, has any thought gone into Windows phone 7 being more secure and compliant? Our current mobile phone infrastructure is starting to get old, and my team and I have been desperatly holding back the requests for fruit-based cool looking devices. If windows phone 7 can offer the security we need, be used in business and look a bit cool then we could be on to a winner!

  • Hi Steve thanks for the question.  

    I've spoken to the Windows Phone 7 product team and they have advised me that the product has not been submitted for assessment for the GCSX Code of Connection.  We have passed your feedback on security directly to the Windows Phone 7 product team.

    I hope this helps, but if you have any more questions let us know.  Alternatively if you have a Premier Support Agreement contact your Technical Account Manager and they will be able to give you further help directly.

    Thanks

    Ben Pearce

    Microsoft Premier Support UK