Microsoft: Forget iPhone, we're still number two in business

The big(ger) dog gets growly

Companies -- lots of them -- are still buying Windows Mobile smartphones, and Microsoft doesn't want to let iPhone-mania make them forget.

325 enterprises purchased at least 500 Windows Mobile phones in Microsoft's most recent fiscal year, with many buying many more, said Scott Rockfeld, group products manager for the mobile communications business at Microsoft, in an interview.

"From the Armed Forces to the US Court System, people are not just trying Windows Mobile, they are buying them," Rockfeld said, in apparent reference to Apple CEO Steve Jobs statement last month that 35 per cent of Fortune 500 companies were beta-testing the iPhone.

Moreover, seven of the ten largest companies in the world ranked by Fortune magazine bought Windows Mobile phones, including one enterprise that bought 100,000.

Rockfeld declined to name the company or even its line of business. "That would give it away," he said. One possibility is Wal-Mart Stores. Microsoft has long had close ties with the retailing giant, such that its former CIO, Kevin Turner, is now Microsoft's COO.

And Microsoft-based devices, going back to the era of PocketPC and Windows CE PDAs, have long been popular tools for retailers and warehouses to help manage their inventory.

Windows Mobile smartphones -- ranging from the hot HTC Touch to the Samsung BlackJack, Motorola's Moto Q, and 150 or so other models -- actually outshipped iPhones by a margin greater than 2:1 in the first quarter of 2008, according to Gartner.

For the fiscal year that ended June 30th, Microsoft sold nearly 20 million Windows Mobile licenses, according to a letter last month by Microsoft vice-president Andy Lees (download PDF).

And despite the iPhone 3G's strong opening weekend sales (download PDF), Rockfeld noted that technology researcher IDC Corp. predicts that Windows Mobile will continue to outsell the iPhone 2:1 in the consumer space by 2012, and in the business space by 9:1.

"So you can see the hype versus the reality," he said.

Rockfeld claimed businesses prefer the stronger manageability and security of Windows Mobile phones, especially those that have been upgraded to the 6.1 version released this spring. For instance, on WindowsMobile phones, data on removable storage cards can be encrypted, he said. And finely tuned access privileges can be imposed on devices based on the user's Active Directory rights in combination with Microsoft's new System Center Mobile Device Manager server software.

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Eric Lai

Computerworld

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