Acquiring Nokia will help Microsoft, but it won't address the main problem that's stifling Windows Phone enterprise adoption: a lack of integration.
From my experience in enterprise mobility, IT departments that rely heavily on Windows architecture (Office, Office 365, Windows 7 or 8, Yammer, SharePoint, Lync and others), would like nothing more than to have phones and tablets that integrate seamlessly with that architecture. Not only would it save companies money, but IT would not require much training or setup for Microsoft mobile software and apps. Unfortunately for those hopefuls, the Nokia acquisition won't directly help Microsoft improve Windows Phone's integration with existing Windows systems.
On the surface (pun intended), integrating Nokia's hardware with Microsoft's software seems like a great idea. In the acquisition, Microsoft will receive roughly 32,000 Nokia employees, which means Microsoft should see improved efficiency by having its device manufacturer be a direct part of the strategic roadmap. As for when we will we see dividends in the form of game-changing components, it is too early to tell. The best thing for the enterprise and consumers is that Microsoft's Nokia acquisition means Windows Phone will continue to be an alternative platform to Android and Apple. This should, at the very least, keep Apple and Android busy increasing their enterprise friendliness.
Enterprise workers might use a Microsoft Windows Phone rather than their iPhone or Android devices if the Windows Phone made it easier to access work data and increased productivity. Because Windows-based smartphones and tablets have the potential to integrate so well with other Windows architecture, they can offer this improved work experience -- if Microsoft tailors them that way.
What is Microsoft Windows Phone up against?
Apple devices are becoming the default enterprise mobile devices; they just have more enterprise mobility features than Windows devices at the moment. Not to mention, it just seems more "cool" to own an iPhone than a Windows Phone. The other issue is how integrated Android and Apple have become in workers' personal lives.
As an IT administrator, the thing that would get me to support Microsoft Windows Phones right now -- considering the fact that the devices do not have the seamless integration I am looking for -- is if Microsoft gave the devices away. It costs about $50 per user to purchase most Windows Phones, so it's feasible to just give them away.
In that scenario, the phones could come preloaded with a special "enterprise mobility" package, and they could either be company-owned or handed out through a COPE (corporate-owned, personally enabled) model. The enterprise mobility package could contain an already-configured Lync app for live chat with co-workers, Skype to video chat with co-workers, vendors or customers, access to the company Office 365 or SharePoint drive, Yammer for social networking, and key business apps such as Evernote, Twitter and Facebook. My other suggestion would be for Microsoft to foster partnerships with key mobile developers that could improve the areas that Windows is deficient in. For example, Microsoft could have Photoshop or Evernote come free with Windows Phone.
Microsoft should also move toward making Windows Phone more of a gaming phone. A gaming phone reaches out to Millennials, who comprise the segment of workers most companies are hiring from. You would think that gaming would be one area that Microsoft would do right, considering it has the lead in the console market.
There have been a lot of people saying how Microsoft's Nokia acquisition was a last-ditch effort to save Microsoft's mobile strategy, but if Microsoft could deliver Windows Phones and tablets that are the top choice for enterprise use, it may have a chance.
This was first published in October 2013