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The Microsoft admin’s brave, new post-Windows Phone world

Galen Gruman | July 4, 2016
Microsoft admins rejoice! Microsoft may have abandoned the mobile device market, but it's actually stronger in the complete mobile market

The new Microsoft-centered mobile portfolio

Foley's worldview is widely shared at Microsoft-centric IT shops. Ironically, you can have an all-Microsoft portfolio as long as you don't define "portfolio" to mean client devices.Microsoft has been telegraphing the end of ex-CEO Steve Ballmer's Nokia-based mobile strategy for more than a year. Under current CEO Satya Nadella, Microsoft has been instead shifting to mobile management, services, and applications as the center of its mobile portfolio. (To be fair, he's also kept hopes for Windows phones alive.)

Microsoft has many times used the "embrace and extend" strategy to beat out or at least slow successful competitors. That's exactly what Microsoft is doing now, in several areas.

Microsoft-centered management. Microsoft's Intune and System Center have both been retooled to manage iOS and Android, as well as Windows 10 PCs. (Only Macs are excluded.) Thus, IT can continue to use the management tools -- modernized, of course -- it already uses for PCs on those iOS and Android devices almost as if they are mere brands like Lenovo, Dell, and HP rather than alien platforms.

icrosoft has adopted the same API-driven management approach that Apple introduced for iOS and Google later adopted. That sea change means PC management and mobile management no longer need be separate silos. They'll unify, and Microsoft wants to be where they come together in IT.

Microsoft's approach to unified PC and mobile management has scared the leading mobile management vendors such as MobileIron, VMware, and Soti. They have very strong management and security tools for devices, content, and apps, and as a result have squeezed out most of what had been more than 100 competitors in this market.

But Microsoft has put a few management capabilities around Office 365 that it doesn't let those competitors use, to give itself an edge at Microsoft-centered IT shops.

Whether you think of that as dirty pool or taking advantage of its existing strengths, several competitors -- IBM, JAMF, MobileIron, and VMware -- felt threatened enough to create an anti-Microsoft alliance called the AppConfig Community. Such defensive alliances rarely succeed, and they can create more harm by further legitimizing the competitor they're aligned against.

If you're a Microsoft shop -- most IT organizations are -- you can now confidently adopt Microsoft's management tools for non-Microsoft devices. It doesn't matter that Microsoft doesn't support some important capabilities that its competitors do, such as Android for Work. What matters is that Microsoft's suite is good enough for most organizations (few of which have adopted Android for Work, after all), that it leverages their existing Microsoft expertise, and it might provide an advantage in managing and safeguarding data in Office 365.

Beyond client device management, Microsoft has also been steadily making its Active Directory identity and policy management server work with more and more third-party tools. The cloud-based Azure Active Directory pushes in that Microsoft-centric direction.

 

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