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Windows Mobile Vs. Blackberry

This is a very interesting review on the Windows Mobile device roll out that we can compare to our Blackberries.
FRI, JUN 6, 2008 16:46 EDT
Posted by: MEK
Rating: 

We have been using Windows Mobile Devices connected to an Exchange 2003 Server for a little over 3 years now and are in the process of deploying that solution globally. This was a “greenfield” deployment with little or no prior smart-devices in the field, so all products were judged without legacy considerations.

To answer some of your questions:

I was involved in the decision making process to go with Windows Mobile and we ended up making the decision of WM over Blackberry for the following reasons:

• Cost: 4 years back, the deployment and maintenance of BES was a significant expense and it was no secret that at the time RIM was generating most of revenue on the servers sales and support vs. device sales and support. The WM layer was built-in to the Exchange 2003 system, which meant no additional licensing costs or server costs. It also meant less training and overhead from an HR standpoint in an area where FTE’s were still a significant concern.

• Device/Wireless Provider flexibility: Historically, separating the software from the hardware has led to faster innovation and product development. We were intrigued by the development model that Microsoft had chosen to use, which was to make the software available and customizable by the hardware vendors and felt that this would ultimately give is a broader range of product to choose from and easier way to switch Wireless Providers (or even use many different Wireless Providers) should we wish to.

• End-User comfort: While there was small and vocal group during testing and evaluation that preferred the simplicity of the Blackberry interface, most non-power users that we did our evaluations with preferred the “comfort” factor of the windows-like interface as well as the mini-Office applications. The WM version of Outlook was especially well-liked.

• Security/IP issues: There was a lot of discomfort (warranted or not) about the idea of email and discussions revolving around IP being moved through a centralized Blackberry network. Many of our CxO’s were more comfortable with the idea of the devices establishing a direct, SSL based connection to our mail servers and updating in that manner.

A little over 3 years after deploying the first of these devices on a fair-sized scale (about 1,000 Windows Mobile Devices in the field), it is possible to make a few broad observations here:

• Initial stability of the Windows Mobile O/S left a lot to be desired. Second-generation product (which was the first device we mass-deployed) typically had to be reset about once-a-week, battery life was poor, and all user settings got wiped if the battery was completely depleted.

• However, as frustrating as the First and Second-generation products were, the current generation of Windows Mobile devices are quite nice indeed, with very few issues overall. The range of design has also met expectations, with a WM design to fit almost every individual user need. The downside is that the quality of hardware and the implementation of the WM O/S on that hardware can vary widely. Testing new designs is therefore very important. (i.e. don’t assume that because all the devices are running WM 5.0, they will behave in same manner or have consistently reliability on different hardware designs).

• Wireless Provider support was (and still for the most part is) pitiful. An unanticipated side-effect of separating the O/S from the Hardware was the amount of interjections and interference that many of the major U.S. Wireless carriers inserted into the design and how often that they stifled innovation. In addition there was a complete lack of understanding of the Windows Mobile operating system, which has lead to tremendous amount of finger-pointing when design issues for a particular device are run into. The simplest way to solve this is to thoroughly test candidate WM devices and (complain) to the Wireless Carriers when you find features or capabilities that have been “turned off” or removed for one reason or another.

• Costs and support have been lower that what we have seen with similar sized locations running BES. We have found that after 3 years, the amount of support we have to provide for our Windows Mobile users has remained fairly low-level, with no FTE needed to support them. Basic support is provided through our help-desk and advanced support is provided through our Exchange Admin Team.

• The potential for broadening the types of devices and O/S’es beyond the Windows Mobile platform, while not fully realized yet, has great potential. Because of MS’s aggressive licensing of the ActiveSync layer to mobile device manufacturers, we are heading in a direction where it will be possible to deploy devices running on a non-MS platform that can still directly connect to the Exchange Server. This standardization of the communications layer brings us out of the locked communications system that is BES and will allow us to look at devices like the iPhone should we choose to do so.

If we could do all over again, I believe we would…

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