Microsoft's iffy bet on 'Mango' to save Windows Phone

What Microsoft has promised in version 7.5 is an improvement -- but still leaves Windows Phone 7 far behind iOS and Android

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But note what's (so far) missing: any notion of security or management for use in business. Windows Mobile was widely used in large businesses and especially governments because it provided a reasonable set of security and management capabilities without the expense and overhead of deploying something like BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES). Windows Phone 7 had none of that. It offers less security than any competing mobile OS, in fact. That killed its possible entrée into businesses and government.

With the trend clearly moving to businesses allowing employee choice and even supporting "bring your own device" policies, Windows Phone 7 essentially excluded itself from where the adoption action is for smartphones: employees who want a device for both personal and business use. This omission was made even more curious by the inclusion of Windows Mobile 6.5's weak Office apps, which at least suggested Windows Phone 7 was meant to used in business environments.

Those apps also need real improvement. Pretty much every smartphone today ships with a demo version of the decent Documents to Go or Quickoffice office productivity suite, and these suites outperform Microsoft's mobile Office. And the bar is set even higher if you look at Apple's office productivity apps for the iPad -- they put everyone else to shame and even give desktop Office a run for its money. Of all companies, Microsoft should be pushing the functionalty and usability envelopes for office apps.

Basically, Mango will bring Windows Phone 7 up to par with 2009's iOS 3 and 2010's Android 2.x -- not to today's iOS 4 or tablet Android 3.0. That's not good enough.

I doubt Microsoft will be pulling any surprises in what it releases this fall. In all its products, Microsoft locks down the core features months, and sometimes more than a year, in advance. That means no surprises for IT buyers, but also products that are usualy behind the market when they are released. The original Windows Phone 7 beta in February 2010 lacked all the capabilities that I and others complained about when the product shipped in November 2010, and Microsoft said quietly but consistently in the interim that the missing features would be added "later," after the initial release. I didn't believe the company was so pigheaded it would ship a clearly substandard product, but it was.

Given that the Mango core functions have been consistently described since December, I have no doubt that this time Microsoft will again deliver just what it has said -- which won't be enough to turn the iOS and Android tides.

This article, "Microsoft's iffy bet on 'Mango' to save Windows Phone," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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