Microsoft was always going to struggle to get coverage of its TechEd developer conference, and particularly its Windows Phone 7 plans, in the week of iPhone 4. But it is trying its best, outlining the WP7 strategy for its most natural market, the mobile enterprise. In addition, details of one of the first WP7 handsets likely to hit the market this year, the LG Panther, leaked online.
It is expected that LG and HTC, the most loyal supporters of Windows Mobile, will be first to announce handsets based on the OS upgrade and on the three chassis designs specified by Microsoft. Both should opt initially for the design geared to high end smartphones, and are expected to release gigahertz 'superphones' akin to HTC's high end Android models.
The Panther certainly appears to be targeting that increasingly busy space, running the Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, plus a 3.5-inch AMOLED touchscreen and HD video support alongside the 5-megapixel camera (rather downscale for LG).
Meanwhile, Microsoft executives told TechEd developers that the firm was not neglecting its traditional business market, despite its focus in recent events on the consumer and multimedia attributes of WP7. It will build a new Office Hub into the platform, which will provide an integrated location for all the user's documents, including those created with OneNote, Excel, Word and Powerpoint. This will be a default feature in all WP7 devices and will integrate with Exchange Server and SharePoint Server.
Initially, WP7 handsets will sync with Exchange Server 2007, Exchange Server 2010 and the current version of Exchange Online; later, syncing with Exchange Online 2010 and SharePoint Online 2010 will be added. According to ZDnet.com, another future update will be secure connectivity for Communications Online and other Microsoft BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite) applications.
These are the firm's hosted, software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings, and enhanced mobile support is a key element of their strategy, especially in the wake of SAP's acquisition of Sybase. Among the rumored changes for BPOS on the mobile front is a dedicated SaaS apps store.
For CRM (customer relationship management), ZDnet says Microsoft will allow developers of front end apps, for its Dynamics CRM back end, to sell their products in the WP7 Marketplace, though the firm will not provide a WP7 version of its CRM platform in its own right.
In other Marketplace news, Microsoft confirmed the app store will be the only one allowed to carry certified WP7 programs; and that it will be a "porn-free zone". It will open a secure subsection of the Marketplace to developers, to make beta releases available to select groups of triallists.
The firm has hinted it will allow enterprises to use the store framework to distribute applications to their employees, but has not added details yet. All WP7 applications must be written in managed code, without native raw socket access, one of the most controversial rules and indicative of Microsoft's desire to maintain Apple-style control over its store.
For security, WP7 will not support IPSEC virtual private networks, as Windows Mobile 6 does, but will use passwords, PIN numbers, remote wiping and other techniques.
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