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Workhorse Smartphones Put To Pasture

With Mobile World Congress taking place in Barcelona this week, the announcements from wireless carriers, handset manufacturers and operating system makers are coming at a fast and frantic pace. Two of these announcements, however, stand out in terms of the impact of IT consumerization and the changing face of enterprise mobility. The first and most dramatic, of course, is Microsoft's announcement of Windows Phone 7 Series. The second is Research in Motion bringing Blackberry Enterprise Server Express (BESX) to the masses. 

In an unapologetic fashion, Microsoft has put their prior mobile OS out to pasture, Windows Mobile, and has brought a new filly to the race. Windows' Phone 7 Series does away with the Start button, as well as most of the vestiges of its predecessors, including backward application compatibility. The user interface has been completely overhauled and focuses on pulling all of the user information together. While the new platform maintains enterprise required features, such as full Exchange support and mobile versions of the Office suite, including a Sharepoint client, these features were secondary in the presentation. Front and center is what the new Windows' Phone would do for the user, highlighting the phone's ability to integrate social networks, photos and contacts into a single device. By all accounts, phones based on Windows Phone 7 Series will be clearly consumer devices with enterprise links.

BESX is a free version of RIM's enterprise server product, delivering the core Blackberry functions, including email, calendar and contacts. For RIM, "going free" not only finally serves as a response to the Server ActiveSync included with Microsoft's Exchange server, but it also gives enterprises a way to embrace the droves of employee-purchased Blackberries. Under the traditional BESX model, enterprises have to purchase not only the server software, but the wireless client licenses as well. So even if an employee brings in his own device, most enterprises still require approval, and in turn justification, to get that user connected to his e-mail. With BESX, small-to-mid-sized enterprises can quickly grow their mobile workforce, giving the base functionality the user is looking for, while maintaining the security inherent in the Blackberry platform. For the enterprise that needs larger deployments or wants to leverage the additional features of BESX, such as UC/PBX integration, RIM is still more than willing to sell those licenses.

Both announcements reflect the big changes happening in enterprise mobility. End users are buying and using their own smart phones for work and IT is increasingly being forced to provide at least email integration. Enterprise-focused vendors like Microsoft and RIM are changing their tune accordingly by making their products more user-friendly. As such, enterprises need to plan a mobility strategy that pays attention to how these devices will be acquired going forward.