Microsoft is making major strategic moves which could signal a comeback in the enterprise mobility market

September was a big month for Microsoft. Not only did they announce the release of their new tablet/laptop hybrids, Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2, but they also purchased business units of Nokia, and updated their software from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1. With these largely mobile advancements, is Microsoft now ready to be a serious challenger in the enterprise mobility race with Apple and Google – the clear leaders in recent years?

Hurt by BYOD in the enterprise, Microsoft is working to win back the consumer

Because of their success with mobile consumer products, Apple’s iPad & iPhone and Google’s Android devices are popular choices for businesses with mobile field workers as well, in both white and blue collar environments, including field service. The majority of field service organizations we work with here at MSI Data are opting for iPads, iPhones or Android devices in the field. With Microsoft’s mobile investments and the development of new mobile products, it’s clear they’re looking to recover lost ground in the enterprise mobile operating systems race. But are Microsoft’s efforts enough to compete for the attention of field service organizations?

Integrated software and hardware: Microsoft Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2

One of the reasons Apple has had such wild success in the mobile market is their seamless design due to in-house made hardware and software. Historically, Microsoft has produced software only and sold it to separate hardware manufacturers. But all that changed with the release of the Microsoft Surface in 2012, which was Microsoft’s first major initiative to integrate its Windows operating system with its own hardware. After addressing a few user complaints from the original Surface, such as low battery life, low power, and inability to adjust the kickstand, Microsoft is ready to try out the tablet again with the release of the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2.

The Surface Pro 2 was built with businesses in mind. Equipped with the same amount of power as most laptops and coming in both 4GB and 8GB of RAM versions, Microsoft touts the Surface Pro 2 as a full laptop replacement. What this means for field service organizations is technicians and back office personnel can use the tablet in the office or in the field without any need for other devices. With the addition of a docking station and full keyboard, Surface Pro 2 looks and acts like a laptop, but is mobile and light weight like a tablet.

Other improvements for the Surface Pro 2 include more speed and longer battery life, plus a kickstand that now adjusts to a 45% angle for working without a desk. Microsoft claims the Surface Pro 2 is faster than 95% of laptops on the market. And with prices starting at $449 for the Surface 2 and $899 for Surface Pro 2, Microsoft Surface undercuts the iPad and MacBook Air, making them formidable competitors for Apple’s popular gadgets.

New Acquisitions: Microsoft purchases Nokia business units

In their push for a stronger mobile presence, Microsoft’s move to buy the handset and services business of Nokia is meant to transfer their business platform onto mobile. By using Nokia, a mobile phone pioneer, to help engineer their mobile efforts, Microsoft is determined to rise in the mobile market. As they continue to develop products, like the Surface line, which integrate their Windows software onto their own hardware devices, Microsoft will be able to use Nokia’s mobile knowledge and expertise to grow in the cellular phone and mobile market.

With their purchase of Nokia, Microsoft demonstrated its dedication to mobile improvements. What this means for field service organizations is that they should be on the lookout for new Microsoft mobile products for their field workforce. Companies already using Windows suites like Microsoft Office would especially benefit from new mobile updates because it would allow the back office and field workers to use the same software and systems to communicate seamlessly throughout the company.

Building up the mobile ecosystem with more developers and apps

Of course, mobile device users, whether in a business or personal setting, love apps. Facing a significant deficit in number of available apps compared with Apple’s App Store and the Google Play store, Microsoft has been aggressively recruiting developers, and planning to combine the Windows Phone Store and Windows Store into a single apps store.

Updated software: Microsoft upgrades software to Windows 8.1

Microsoft’s software upgrade, Windows 8.1, demonstrates the company’s advancements in mobile connectivity and productivity, following the demand for a stronger mobile presence from consumers and businesses. New developments in Microsoft’s software and apps let people work virtually anywhere on any Windows device.

New devices running on Windows 8.1 come equipped with the full power of Microsoft Office with Outlook, Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and OneNote. These features can keep field service organizations connected and organized, encouraging productivity virtually anywhere. New Windows Store apps can also be developed specifically for your organization and easily deployed to your employees. This ability for customization lets businesses decide what will help them the most and then create the app that will allow them to meet company goals.

Whether you’ve been using mobile technology in the field for years or you’re just now thinking about investing in cross-platform mobile field service software, keep your eye out for Microsoft, whose mobile offerings are on the rise. Though they’re currently playing catch-up, it is our hope that Microsoft’s recent moves will make field service mobility a three horse race.

7 Best Practices for Choosing New Field Service Software

There are plenty of reasons that service organizations review, purchase and implement new field service management software. Regardless of what situations force your service organization to that tipping point, there are several tried and true methods you can use to organize the buying process, eliminate the unexpected and significantly increase your chances of success with your new software.