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By Chris De Herrera 
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What is Needed for Windows Mobile to Excel in the Enterprise?
By Chris De Herrera , Copyright 2003

Revised 12/29/2003

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Lately Ive been thinking more and more about what Microsoft needs to focus on adding to future Pocket PCs.  As part of that, I thought that a list of the most nagging issues affecting Windows Mobile deployments in the Enterprise would help users understand the limitations of these devices.  Also, I hope Microsoft considers these issues in future developments for the Pocket PC.

  1. Support for additional Calendar, Contacts and Tasks Folders Clearly every major corporation has a public folder for their entire employees contact information.  Also, there are many assistants that need two calendars.  Right now there is no support for Microsoft to synchronize these folders not even in Exchange 2003.
  2. Native support for Exchange If you want the Pocket PCs adopted in the enterprise, make it as easy as possible.  Right now the requirement that overworked information technology staff needs to configure the server and the client on the Pocket PC means that unless the Pocket PC is viewed strategically, it wont get done.  Even with a simple client that did not require reconfiguration of the Exchange server would allow many users to maximize their Pocket PCs capabilities.
  3. Support for viewing and editing Office Documents Pocket Word, Pocket Excel are poor substitutes for the desktop.  Id love to see the option to view Word and Excel documents (including graphs) on the Pocket PC so I can read attachments to e-mail when Im away from my desk.  Further allowing users to edit the documents is a critical function that all business users need on a regular basis.
  4. Support for Acrobat Adobes Acrobat format dominates common forms in the enterprise. Even the .NET Crystal Reports tool allows developers to save documents in Acrobat format. Clearly Microsoft needs to include in rom support for viewing Acrobat files to meet enterprise customers needs.
  5. Built-in Printing Support Right now Pocket Word, Pocket Excel and other applications on the Pocket PC know nothing about printing.  So 3rd parties are having to decode the file format to print documents using their own proprietary print engines and drivers.  With printing salesmen could print orders in the field to meet customer needs.
  6. Better web browser support Users need to use their Pocket PCs to access their bank and stocks websites.  Right now it still supports an older version of Internet Explorer.  Also, the implementation of Jscript is weaker than it is on the desktop.  The ideal functionality is that the web designer does not need to do anything to support both the desktop and the Pocket PC in the enterprise for both intranets and extranets.
  7. Fix ActiveSync Its just got to work the first time and every time.  We need control over what people put on their devices we cant let the Pocket PC out without controls over what files, e-mail calendar, contacts and tasks they put on their Pocket PC.  Right now there is no easy way to prevent users from changing ActiveSyncs settings to control this let alone controlling it centrally.  Also, we really need error message that tell us what is not being synchronized and how to fix problems.
  8. Management tools How do I centrally apply patches and install applications as well as ensure system controls are in place?  Without 3rd party software Ive got to touch each Pocket PC to ensure it is configured correctly.  Yes, Microsoft has support for configuring network connections (using xml over the air) but thats just a fraction of the settings that the users need to configure on their devices.
  9. How could I go through this list without mentioning the lack of networking tools.  Uses cannot easily confirm connectivity with their network or VPN and they need to do this to use the Pocket PC effectively.  We really need a utility like the Zero Configuration has in XP which allows for a release/renew of an IP address and the ability to see the TCP/IP settings.  Oh and ideally we need to have Ping ported so we can confirm connectivity.
  10. Versions coming every year.  We need stability on the software so we dont have to upgrade both Pocket PCs and ActiveSync on their desktops and train everyone every year.  Ideally Id like to see the ability to keep all users at the same software level for 2-3 years and still get new equipment as needed.  Its really disruptive to work on a custom development project and have to install additional software to deploy applications such as Visual Basic runtime.

As always these represent my personal opinions and do not represent any indication of what Microsoft is doing in the future.  These are my musings on the items I see that are missing in the Pocket PC for enterprise customers.  If Microsoft implements these recommendations, the Pocket PC will be the most complete client for the enterprise.


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