The holidays are fast approaching, and thoughts turn to children writing (and some adults) making their holiday “wish lists”. With Windows Phone 7 having been launched, I’ve been pondering a bit of a Wish List myself. While Microsoft clearly put the consumer “front and center” in the initial release of Windows Phone 7, they clearly realized that “managing your life” includes work as well as home. This being the case, many users purchasing Windows Phone 7 devices fully intend to use their new phones in their enterprise environments. The question, however, is whether they really can or be allowed to.
The enterprise is evolving with regards to phones. More and more companies are allowing employees to select and even purchase their own devices and connect to corporate infrastructure. Most commonly, there is at the least the allowance of connecting to Microsoft Exchange for email, contact and calendar information. While easing up on some restrictions, there is often a baseline of security that must be adhered to in order for any phone to be considered “safe” for corporate use. In addition, the value of any phone is often attached to its additional potential and uses. If a phone cannot be used for certain productivity scenarios, it is not considered to be “qualified” for the enterprise environment.
With all of these considerations laid out, I now present to you my personal “Top 5 Windows Phone 7 Enterprise Wish List”. While I have placed these items in order of my preference, the realization is that for each individual or business, these needs may vary. Generally speaking, though, I believe that these 5 items are essential to Microsoft gaining greater user acceptance in providing a reason for an individual purchasing the device for both work and personal use.
#5 – Application Blacklist/Whitelist Functionality
While enterprise control over what a user can or cannot install on a phone has been trending downward, the fact still remains that some companies require the ability to restrict what applications can be run on a device. Most commonly today, the use for this is for blocking specific applications (blacklisting) and is usually very tightly scoped (the days of “blocking everything but…” known as “whitelisting” has diminished with increased use of personal phones). When the need for blacklisting does arise for a company, though, the result is typically a “go/no-go” for devices where this cannot be done.
Microsoft had this functionality in Windows Mobile, and it made that platform (along with RIM and the Blackberry) the preferred device on some enterprise networks for a long time. Without this functionality, some users simply will not be able to access work-related information on their Windows Phone.
#4 – Manual WiFi Configuration
In case you were unaware, Windows Phone 7 WiFi network discovery is very restrictive. Simply put – if the SSID of network is not broadcast, it is not available for configuration. In environments where the WiFi network’s SSID is not broadcast, there is no easy way to connect to the network. Now, we can have a long discussion around the security (or lack thereof) that hiding an SSID provides. The fact of the matter, however, is that certain enterprise environments are configured in this way and changing to a broadcast SSID is simply not going to happen any time in the future. If this access is required for work-related activities (Exchange access from within the firewall and Sharepoint access without Forefront UAG installed are examples), we have another “no-go” situation for the user.
Microsoft has provided manual WiFi configuration in the past with Windows Mobile. While the “old” methods may not be conducive to the new Windows Phone 7 UI, it should not be all that difficult to create an option that allows a user to simply enter an SSID for discovery. Such a feature could go a long way in supporting users with business WiFi needs.
#3 – Enterprise Line Of Business Application Deployment
For those organizations building client applications for their business users, providing a controlled method for deploying these applications to only those should have it. In the current Windows Phone 7 world, deployment is – well, “controlled”. There is one way to deploy any Windows Phone 7 application – The Windows Phone Marketplace. Unfortunately, any application that is deployed through that channel is open to the world. There is no way to say “only display this application to these users”. For custom line of business applications accessing sensitive information, this type of exposure is simply unacceptable.
Windows Mobile was the other end of the application deployment spectrum, with complete flexibility in deployment options and a certificate signing process and trust model that still ensured safety. Every phone platform today now supports multiple application deployment options (this includes Apple now) – except Windows Phone. In enterprise environments where these sorts of applications make or break the value proposition of one phone over the other, Windows Phone 7 will be excluded.
#2 – Data Encryption
The pros and cons of the value of device data encryption can be argued for days on end, but one fact remains – in some enterprises encryption is not just an IT policy; it is a legal compliance issue. In the case of all businesses with resident information in Massachusetts, it is the law (see here for more information). If data on a phone cannot be securely encrypted, using that device to store information may very well be in violation of statutes resulting in fines and other penalties. Regardless of the reasons, however, some enterprise environments simply cannot or will not afford the risk of unencrypted data.
Encryption functionality was another strong point for Microsoft and Windows Mobile in the enterprise environment. In addition to solid encryption capabilities, the ability to enforce encryption rules through policies was a key to enterprise acceptance. Microsoft needs to find a way to bring encryption back into the fold with Windows Phone 7. The legislative push for greater data security and privacy is likely to gain momentum and devices (phones or otherwise) that cannot meet the legal and technical criteria simply will not be tolerated.
#1 – Alphanumeric Password
Some may wonder why I have this rated #1 on my list. The reason is quite simple. Even in an enterprise environment where items 2 through 5 on my list are unimportant, the protection of device data through a device password is considered a minimum threshold for security. While Windows Phone 7 supports password security, it currently only supports simple (numeric) passwords. For most enterprise organizations I have worked with, the term “Basic Mailbox Policy” (the minimum security threshold for allowing a user to simply connect to corporate mail) includes the presumption of being able to mandate a more complex password. In many of these environments, not being able to even set an alphanumeric password means no Exchange Server access.
The lack of alphanumeric support and policy enforcement in Windows Phone 7 is one case where I was left nothing short of dumbfounded. While I don’t want to trivialize anything regarding the implementation of a feature, how this was not included for the V1 launch of Windows Phone 7 is out of the realm of my comprehension. I have already encountered people who work for smaller businesses with little to no security policies… EXCEPT for the requirement of an alphanumeric password for corporate accounts. I truly hope this is addressed soon.
There were a couple of items that missed the “Top 5” on my enterprise wish list that should still get some mention -
- Custom APN configuration. For those enterprises that have agreements with carriers to have dedicated APNs.
- Office Communicator. For so many enterprises, the expectation of a Microsoft platform includes a Communicator client, especially when the platform itself revolves around communication.
I am certain there are other items on people’s lists that I haven’t covered here as well (I did say this was my wish list, you know ). I do believe that none of these items are beyond the realm of possibility. While some are far more complex to implement than others, all can be achieved. The result of including these items as part of the value proposition for Windows Phone 7 would all equate to one message – Windows Phone 7 helps you manage your personal and professional life; and your company like it too.