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With Nokia, Microsoft has missing pieces to attack mobile enterprise

Antone Gonsalves | Sept. 5, 2013
With BlackBerry cast aside by Android and Apple iOS, Microsoft has an opportunity to fill the security gap

"That would be a big step in protecting their users," he said.

While Microsoft has a lot of technology to leverage in business, its tallest hurdle remains convincing consumers that they should buy devices running Windows Phone instead of the Apple iPhone and Android smartphones. In the second quarter, Windows Phone had only 3.3% of the global smartphone market, compared with 79% for Android and 14.2% for Apple's iOS.

Unlike businesses, consumers do not have to worry about integrating their smartphones with office applications behind a firewall. Instead, security is mostly seen in terms of passwords and protecting personal data, not encryption and networks.

Cracking the consumer market is important, because people often use their smartphones to access corporate networks, which oftentimes forces their employers to accommodate the devices.

"The implosion of BlackBerry leaves an opportunity for a provider with great security to step in and fill high-end enterprise needs -- but unless the provider has a great consumer device first it isn't going to have a chance," said Gartner analyst David Cearley.

Because of Microsoft's minor position in the smartphone market, it has a better chance initially to grow much faster in the tablet market. People are more willing to let their companies buy the tablets for them, because the devices are much more expensive than smartphones. Carriers usually subsidize the latter in return for customers signing a two-year contract.

In cases where the company is buying the device, IT departments will have more of a say in the product purchased and how it is used.

"Users have a voice, but a much smaller one than with phones," Gold said. "So if IT is inclined to stay with the same corporate apps, on the same OS they know for desktops and laptops, Windows tablets have an advantage."

Nevertheless, rivals would be unwise to sell Microsoft short in the smartphone market.

"They have a real shot as there is still strong affinity for the Windows brand, and they can ensure tight integration with core services on the back-end," said Tyler Lessard, chief marketing officer for mobile security company Fixmo. "Windows isn't going anywhere."


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