Win7 Smartphones Will Increase Pressure on IT

Holding off mission-critical access from gadgets gets harder.

The release this week of Windows 7-based smartphones will make it harder for IT to resist user demands for mobile access to mission-critical apps.   

No one is arguing it's any less risky or any more convenient to make applications with often-mission-critical data available through highly vulnerable smartphones. (Though there are safe ways to do it.)

It's just that having the current version of Windows on anything gives it, in the minds of non-technology people who want to be able to do their work wherever they are, with whatever toys productivity boosting handheld technology they like.

The good news is that the smartphone version of Windows 7 -- or  Windows 7-ish version of Windows Mobile, depending on how you look at it -- is getting good reviews for both the software and the phones it runs on. It's limited to just phones supported on AT&T's GSM network, but that didn't hold the iPhone back much.

It also has Office onboard, and Facebook integrated, though the real business benefit of that last bit is questionable.

Microsoft currently owns around 5 percent of the global smartphone market, but will increase to 7 percent by the end of the year, IDC predicts.

The other bit of good news, at least about handhelds' effect on security and compliance, a lot of healthcare companies are migrating to iPhone-based apps for doctors and nurses, even for HIPAA-regulated patient records. Clinicians walking around patient floors use them to read or write orders for tests, test results, symptoms and care reports. Some studies show  a higher rate of misdiagnosis and mis-prescribing of tests or medicine by doctors with handhelds, but that has to do with how the data are laid out, not problems with either the concept, use-case, hardware or security involved.

Back to the bad news -- those results and the debut of Windows 7 on phones will make it harder to argue that the iPhone and Android phones are alien operating systems that require a completely different skill set, management, security and auditing tools than PC-based operating systems.

It will also make it harder to argue that just putting in some Blackberry servers  and letting people get their email on the run is the same as having a mobile application strategy.

That's all true, but it's not going to help when users want to be able to use technology as smart at work as they do at home.

And it's not like it's a huge mystery how  you'd do that securely, without having to rebuild all the UIs and network interfaces and security that allow your salesdude to connect to sensitive customer data from a Starbucks and keep everyone else in the Starbucks from doing the same thing.

In fact, new toys for end users are a great way to justify the cost for the infrastructure behind them which can almost always be used for other projects that could reduce the amount of effort it takes to maintain desktops for all those users

The problem may be that, even once you get all the back-end virtualized and secured and everything, your end users are still going to be using Windows.

Is that going to be a good thing, because it reduces training and infrastructure mods? Or is it going to suck because, well, it's Windows?

You tell me. Given the choice between iPhone, Android and Windows 7 on a smartphone, which would you pick? And are you going to get the opportunity?

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