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My Predictions for Windows Phone 8
Will Microsoft finally find some success in the phone market with its Windows Phone 8 devices?
Microsoft will officially release Windows Phone 8 next week. Although some details about the new phones and their mobile operating system have been publically released, Windows Phone 8 has for the most part been veiled in secrecy. That being the case, I thought it might be fun to share with you my predictions for the new mobile operating system.
Those of you who follow this blog know that I love my Windows Phone 7 device. Even so, the rest of the world does not seem to share my warm sentiment toward the phone. According to some of the surveys that I have seen, most of the people that have actually tried Windows Phone 7 have been very happy with it. However, the operating system has been largely overlooked by consumers.
A couple of months ago I was out with some friends and someone mentioned that they were about to get a new phone. Someone else in the group asked them if they were going with Android or the iPhone. It was as if those were the only two mobile operating systems that exist. Needless to say I wasn't happy about that particular comment, but I am realistic enough to know that it was an accurate representation of the way that consumers currently view the mobile phone industry.
The reason why I am telling you this is because Microsoft knows that almost nobody takes Windows Mobile seriously. They also know that this is probably going to be their last chance to overtake the mobile device market. As such, I think that we can expect Microsoft to really pull out all the stops.
I realize that it is easy to dismiss my opinion as wishful thinking, and perhaps in part it is just that. However, my opinion is based on Microsoft's track record with other products. Consider Hyper-V for example. Prior to the release of Windows Server 2012, almost nobody took Hyper-V seriously. It was a good hypervisor for small businesses, but it lacked the features that would make it a viable option for larger businesses. Microsoft realized that VMware had completely overtaken the server virtualization market and that they would have to make some major changes if they wanted to compete with VMware. The end result was Hyper-V 3.0, which is truly a great product.
With that said, what about my predictions for Windows Phone 8? Being that Apple and Google currently dominate the consumer market and RIM is floundering, I expect Microsoft to market Windows Phone 8 toward businesses, but to throw in enough "fun stuff" to appeal to consumers as well.
Based on the information that Microsoft has already released regarding Windows RT, I doubt that Windows Phone 8 will support domain joining, but I do expect the device to support a wide range of group policy settings that will most likely be applied through ActiveSync. Windows Phone 7 already does this, but I think that Windows Phone 8 will offer broader ActiveSync policy support, especially since there is a new version of Exchange Server in the works.
I also expect Windows Phone 8 to feature native device encryption. The lack of storage encryption was one of the factors that held some businesses back from adopting Windows Phone 7.
It also seems reasonable to assume that Windows Phone 8 will include native support for various Microsoft server products. Windows Phone 7 supported Exchange connectivity and it had a SharePoint client (although it wasn't very good). I expect that Windows Phone 8 will include native support for Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync at a minimum. Microsoft could even go so far as to include a System Center agent on the phones, which would allow Windows Phone 8 devices to be managed using the same software that organizations use to manage Windows desktops.
I am also predicting that Microsoft will include native support for Direct Access. Direct Access is a feature that allows mobile devices to connect to resources on a corporate network without the need for a VPN. Direct Access was first introduced in Windows 7, but almost nobody used it because it was so difficult to configure. Windows 8 is going to include a much simpler Direct Access implementation, and it seems reasonable to assume that this feature will make it to Windows Phone as well.
So what about consumer grade features? Consumers simply won't purchase Windows Phone 8 if it isn't fun. With that in mind, I expect Microsoft to build on the Xbox gaming features that they first introduced with Windows Phone 7. I also think that now that Microsoft is finally abandoning the Zune software -- we will see much better support for pictures, music and movies.
It remains to be seen what features Microsoft will actually include in Windows Phone 8, but at least we won't have to wait long to find out. Whether or not my predictions are right, I think that Windows Phone 8 will be truly innovative.
Brien Posey is a 20-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.