Will Microsoft's iPhone Envy Punt Away the Enterprise?

Includes: AAPL, GOOG, MSFT
by: Larry Dignan

Microsoft’s Mix developer powwow stoked the fires for Windows Phone 7 and a nice new interface, but it appears that the software giant is punting on the enterprise—a move that could turn out to be huge blunder.

The talk about Windows Phone 7 revolved around multitasking, code, app availability and how software will be sold and closing the iPhone and Android gaps. However, IT types were left to ask: What about us?

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) gave an answer and it goes something like this: Windows Phone 7 isn’t for you. It’s for consumers. We may come around to you later.

Talk about forgetting the base. Microsoft in its envy of Apple’s iPhone may be about to exclude its most important group of customers—the enterprise.

Mary Jo Foley’s looked for some answers and got the following guidance on Windows Phone 7 and how it plays in the enterprise. Charlie Kindel, who’s spearheading the Windows Phone 7 development charge, said:

“We don’t expect enterprises to go out there and buy these (Windows Phone 7 devices) en masse for their employees,” he said. Microsoft’s target is the consumer who wants to do a limited amount of enterprise tasks (pretty much exclusively through the Office hub). Microsoft has no plans to offer any kind of migration tools for enterprise developers to help them move existing Windows Mobile apps to the new platform.

Microsoft—the king of reverse compatibility (sometimes to its detriment)—is making a clean break on mobile. However, it’s unclear whether that move is such a bright idea. As players like Apple and Palm become more corporate friendly, Microsoft runs the opposite way. Research in Motion has to be smiling—it’ll own the enterprise market.

Gallery: Test apps for Windows Phone 7

Needless to say that Microsoft’s stance doesn’t go over well with the enterprise types. In one talkback, a reader noted that Microsoft is abandoning the enterprise.

Mary Jo’s reply:

Yes, it sure seems that way. Today, MS is saying its enterprise users should stick with WM 6.5 and that WP7 is more consumer-focused. I can’t believe MS is really going to give up and alienate enterprise customers, given its large enterprise customer/partner base. But unless they have a WP7 Enterprise Edition up their sleeves, I think lots of folks targeting the biz market will be moving off the Win Phone platform.

The big question here is whether Microsoft would do a Windows Phone 7 enterprise edition. On the one hand, that’s a clunky approach. But Microsoft wouldn’t be crazy enough to leave the enterprise—one of the few mobile markets that give the software giant some play—would it?

Can Microsoft’s iPhone envy cause that much strategic blindness?

Original post