Survey: IT casts its lot with Microsoft's coming mobile platforms

Nearly half plan to standardize on Windows Phone and Windows RT platforms, but Apple's iOS also gains in adoption plans

Almost half of IT managers in a survey last month said that they plan to standardize their company's mobile platform on devices running Microsoft operating systems, including smartphone OSes Windows Phone 7.5 and Windows Phone 8 and the tablet OS Windows RT, according to ThinkEquity, a research and institutional investment banking services firm.

Forty-eight percent of respondents said they would choose Microsoft technology as their corporate mobile standard, up from 44 percent in a similar survey three months before, according to a research note from ThinkEquity financial analyst Yun Kim. Google's Android OS dropped to 8 percent from 11 percent, while Apple's iOS grew from 10 percent to 14 percent.

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The survey polled 100 U.S.-based IT managers, including CIOs, technology vice presidents, and IT directors, from a variety of industries. More than 75 percent of the respondents worked for companies with more than 500 employees.

A big factor behind Microsoft's strong showing is the "strength and longevity" of its Office productivity suite. "With this continued confirmation of this surprising finding six months ago, we have increasing confidence that [Microsoft] is well positioned to leverage its Office franchise to perhaps continue to dominate the corporate PC environment as the platform shifts from desktop/laptop to mobile device," Kim wrote.

In addition, strengthening its enterprise position could help Microsoft improve its chances in the mobile consumer market, according to Kim.

Microsoft OSes have only a small share of the smartphone and tablet markets, trailing Google's Android and Apple's iOS. Microsoft hopes to improve its position with the upcoming releases of Windows Phone 8, Windows 8, and Windows RT, the latter being the Metro-only Windows 8 version for tablets based on ARM chips.

Windows Phone 8 will be closely aligned at a technical level with Windows 8 in a way that earlier Microsoft smartphone platforms have not been with other Windows OSes. Both operating systems are expected to ship at the end of this month, but Microsoft has not shown Windows Phone 8 publicly and it has shown Windows RT only in very controlled settings.

Windows 8 and its Windows RT version feature a redesigned user interface -- formerly called Metro -- that has been optimized for tablet devices. Microsoft even plans to market its own Windows tablet, called Surface.

Asked for his opinion about this ThinkEquity survey finding, Forrester Research analyst David Johnson said that it makes sense that IT managers be attracted by the possibility of deploying Office applications on Windows mobile devices. However, he cautioned IT managers planning to standardize on a mobile platform from the top down that "if there is anything to be learned by the RIM implosion, it's that device choice lies in the hands of the employee, not IT."

"Humans are going to use what they want to use, whether it's preferred by IT or not," Johnson said via email.

In PCs, ThinkEquity's survey also found that 37 percent of respondents have completed their Windows 7 deployments, while 45 percent are rolling it out, and 17 percent are still in an evaluation or piloting phase. More than 82 percent said they haven't altered their Windows 7 implementation plans as a result of the imminent launch of Windows 8.

IDC analyst Al Gillen said IDC expects that the majority of organizations will stick with Windows 7 as their PC OS. "There has been robust deployment of Windows 7 over the past year or two, and given the investment many customers made to get to that level of deployment, it is very unlikely most will switch horses mid-race and try to finish up with Windows 8," Gillen said via email.

Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers, and general technology breaking news for the IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

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