Dan GriffinWelcome to the fifth edition of the JW Secure Informer, our bi-monthly newsletter. This is an opportunity to share what’s on our radar, specifically with respect to enterprise network security, but also regarding IT and business more generally.

The Informer is intended to be useful content and good for a quick read. So if it’s just clutter in your inbox, we’ve failed, and I hope you’ll let us know.

Mobile Strategy: Service-Connected Devices

CNN/Money ran an interesting article entitled Microsoft is a Dying Consumer Brand on October 27. Although clearly intended to be provocative, the piece is nevertheless a reasonable summary of the challenges faced by Microsoft’s consumer product lines, and it made an interesting point: the importance of the consumer market is part of Microsoft’s corporate culture. That cultural aspect surely goes back at least to Windows 95, a product which made a huge splash with consumer PC purchases just as the internet revolution was getting ready to explode.

However, there’s an even more important point here: many people believe that mobile computing market share is critical because the predominant user mobile platform choice will influence choices in enterprise computing purchases. While I admit that I find it difficult to argue against that point, I also find it to be a little slippery. It’s one of those things that sound so obvious when you hear it that you don’t bother questioning it.

One thing that is clear: mobile is going to continue to be one of the primary technology market growth areas for the foreseeable future. Thus, a company like Microsoft, whose strategy is platform dominance, can hardly afford to fail in the mobile space.

But there are two important things to keep in mind. First, most of the growth in the mobile computing market is and will be overseas. Indeed, most of the growth in all of Microsoft’s businesses will come from outside the US; the company has recognized that for years.

And yet, while I find myself characterizing Microsoft’s mobile strategy as “chase Apple,” Apple has only a microscopic presence in the overseas mobile market. And Apple’s strategy – product excellence – differs, as we’ve already seen, from Microsoft’s: platform dominance. You don’t need an excellent product in order to establish a dominant platform; you just need a good one. But I’ll come back to this in a moment.

The second thing to keep in mind is that mobile isn’t the only growth area in technology. What about services? Ray Ozzie made this point very well in his recent Dawn of a New Day blog post. Indeed, smart phones are only as compelling as the connected applications available for them, and those applications can be viewed as services which require a cloud platform to run them (see my Mobile Devices + Cloud post). Microsoft has made a significant investment in the Windows Azure cloud platform, as well as in complementary efforts such as Office 365. And while Windows Phone 7 exposes a much too limited developer interface to win hearts and minds yet, the ingredients for a consistent desktop/mobile/cloud platform are there. So it’s through the lens of this “service-connected devices” strategy, which Ray Ozzie talks about above, that you can start to believe again in Microsoft’s ability to win in the mobile space.

In conclusion, “chase Apple,” also known as “WWSJD,” is not the right strategy. Admittedly, the “service-connected devices” analysis indicates that “chase Apple” may not actually be what Microsoft is trying to do. If so, they haven’t done a good enough job of changing the playing field yet. After all, chasing US-based consumers with an iPhone look-alike device is hardly playing to Microsoft’s strengths. What about the BlackBerry users and IT decision makers overseas? What about the legions of Windows developers who are waiting for a mobile platform that will let them shine again? I eagerly await the game-changing mobile platform from Microsoft that the market so desperately needs.

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Check out Cloud Security: Safely Sharing IT Solutions in the October, 2010 TechNet magazine.