Mobile Device Management with Windows Phone 8.1

Scott Calonico

If you take a little time to look into the mobile device management capabilities of Windows Phone 8.1, you will probably find yourself lamenting the platform’s lack of success.

In fact, “lack of success” is something of an understatement. The mobile market share for Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS have dived to just 3.8% in the US and a worryingly tiny 0.6% in China. It’s doing better in Europe, with an overall share of 8.1%, but in all three territories, the share has dropped in the past year. These figures are all taken from a recent study by Kantar Worldpanel ComTech.

Regardless of whether you’re a fan of the Windows Phone’s OS, and the way it dares to do things differently to iOS and Android, the lack of popularity seems a real shame when you delve into all the features Microsoft have included to help Windows Phone devices slot tidily into business environments.

Here are some examples:

1.   Windows Phone 8.1 includes an open MDM (Mobile Device Management) client, allowing it to cleanly link to MDM systems from third-party vendors. Some companies will inevitably use Windows Intune, but Microsoft are not forcing them to do so.

2.   Windows Phone 8.1 devices are easy to control from a distance and encrypted “out of the box,” with additional BitLocker encryption possibilities available too.

3.   Devices feature Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) options.

4.   Businesses can install line of business apps on an encrypted (and hidden) partition on an SD card using a Windows Phone 8.1 device.

5.  Windows Phone 8.1 can be forced to automatically trigger a VPN connection for secure connectivity to company servers.

6.  Remote device and data wiping is fully supported and can be initiated by either a user or by the IT department via an MDM system.

7. Windows Phone 8.1 can natively encrypt email communications using S/MIME techniques.

When you consider all of these features, you quickly realise that Microsoft is effectively offering a set of features that rivals those that enterprises enjoyed with the likes of Blackberry Enterprise Server some years ago.

It’s fair to say that while Android and (perhaps to a lesser extent) iOS devices can handle some of this functionality, usually with third-party apps, neither of these mobile operating systems have nearly so much business-class functionality straight out of the box.

However, whether Microsoft can capitalise on this remains to be seen. Market share for Windows Phone has fallen so low, it’s hard to imagine it recovering. Going back to our original point, this is a shame—as IT managers could find Windows Phone 8.1 devices easy to secure and manage.

Unfortunately, Microsoft just don’t seem to have pinned down the “desirability factor” when it comes to Windows Phone. Even so, if you need to roll out a fleet of new mobile devices, you should at least consider the Windows Phone option. For business use, Microsoft really seem to have thought things though this time.