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The Microsoft admin’s brave, new post-Windows Phone world

Galen Gruman | July 4, 2016
Microsoft admins rejoice! Microsoft may have abandoned the mobile device market, but it's actually stronger in the complete mobile market

Microsoft-centered productivity. More than a year ago, Microsoft released a version of Office for iPad that was really good. A quality Android version followed last summer, then a Mac version. Finally, the Windows version and Windows Phone version. (Note the order of release.)

Microsoft pushed Apple out of its historic lead for iOS productivity and revitalized the sagging Mac version of Office. The mobile version of Google Apps have never been very good, and the Web version of Google Apps for the desktop is passable.

As a result, Office is the productivity suite for anyone and everyone, as long as you buy an Office 365 subscription. For IT, that means it can support only one suite (Microsoft's) and ignore or even block Apple iWorks, Google Apps, and the various Android productivity suits, such as Polaris Office. In other words, it's all-Microsoft on the productivity front, or it can easily be.

Yes, Microsoft still has tools like Access and Publisher that are Windows-only, and certain capabilities in Excel, PowerBI, and other tools don't work on Macs, iOS, and/or Android. Windows is still Microsoft's favored platform. But it's clear that Office is now the platform that matters, not Windows.

Microsoft-centered communications. Apple adopted Exchange Active Sync (EAS) protocol years ago for iOS and OS X, so iPhones, iPads, and Macs can play nicely in an Exchange-centered business -- which is most of them.

Microsoft's back-end implementation has been inconsistent and often fails to work properly on clients except for Outlook for Windows -- even Microsoft's Outlook clients for other platforms often fail the compatibility test. The situation gets muchworse for Microsoft's collaboration tools, such as SharePoint and Yammer. But it's slowly improving, with OneDrive the first to see some (only some) fruits of Microsoft's years-long effort to make its collaboration and communications clients as good across platforms as Office now is.

Even with all those issues, Exchange is clearly the center of email and calendar communications across Windows, OS X, iOS, and Android -- giving a Microsoft-centric IT department what it wants. Microsoft tells me it'll fix the Exchange back end and open up its APIs so that both Microsoft's and third parties' clients can be equal or at least equal-enough citizens in an Exchange-centered world. Whether they run Outlook or not, who cares? They are still in effect Microsoft clients, though not from Microsoft.

OneDrive is getting there as well, and Microsoft's goal for file storage and access is the same as for Exchange: Power it all from OneDrive/SharePoint on the back end, making Microsoft the indispensable center for whatever clients users happen to have. Oh, and promote Microsoft's technology agenda along the way.

Hardly anyone uses Yammer, so the fact that non-Microsoft tools like Slack and HipChat are better is an acceptable reality for Microsoft shops -- especially because Slack and HipChat can be integrated into Microsoft's cloud-based Azure Active Directory identity management if desired. Microsoft remains the center of gravity, especially for IT. Microsoft-centric admins should love that.


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