Santa Came Early to Mobile Devices

The Microsoft “stack” just got a lot deeper on top of my Windows Phone 7, which is news enough, but I am ecstatic that Redmond spread the love to my Apple iPad, and to the iPhones and Android phones of my friends and colleagues as well!

Over recent days, Microsoft has been pushing out release after release of key technologies to Windows Phone 7, and even to iPhones, iPads, and Android devices. I actually got a bit dizzy trying to keep track of everything they’ve been doing.

This week, I’ll recap and I’ll tell you what has me most excited about what these releases foretell about Microsoft and SharePoint in 2012.

Let’s start with a quick run-down of what’s been and is being released:

  • Microsoft Lync 2010 client The Lync client provides presence, phone, and meeting functionality. It was released on Monday for Windows Phone 7  and should be available any day for iOS and Android devices. There’s even a set of TechNet articles for IT Pros. Configuration is required on the server and on your account (you must be enabled as a “mobile client” on Lync), so don’t expect that you can just install-and-go, unless you’re an Office 365 user and Microsoft hosts your DNS, in which case [as far as I understand it], everything should in theory just work.
  • Windows Live SkyDrive client The SkyDrive client provides access to your SkyDrive, with varying levels of functionality. You can learn more on the SkyDrive: On Your Phone page. Windows Phone already integrates with SkyDrive, but this lets you manage your storage more easily.
  • Microsoft OneNote 1.3 was released for iPhone and iPad on Monday. You can download it from the Apple app store.

I learned about the development of OneNote for the iPad quite a few months back and, honestly, it was the one release I was MOST looking forward to this year. I adore OneNote and would prefer to do most of my work in it. OneNote makes it so easy for me to collect information, research, collaborate, and (of course) take notes.

Its one shortcoming was lack of an iPad app, and I was using my iPad with increasing frequency in meetings.

I switched to Evernote which is an excellent application and still has a lot of advantages over OneNote on the iPad, but Evernote, for some reason, wasn’t providing an iFilter on the PC, so you couldn't search Evernote notes using Windows Desktop Search.

If there’s one thing I use more than OneNote, it’s search, so that hurt. Now I can start migrating back to OneNote wherever possible, and I’m looking forward to it!

The apps actually leave quite a bit to be desired. OneNote doesn’t yet support rich text formatting, ink, or many other pretty important features. But at long last it’s enough to take notes on an iPad during a meeting—notes that you can sync back to the PC and WinPhone 7 devices via SkyDrive.

The SkyDrive app doesn’t integrate deeply into my iPad—I’d much prefer to be using SkyDrive (where I have 25GB of free storage, as opposed to 5GB on iCloud) as a “native” storage. And Lync doesn’t integrate deeply into the Messaging hub.

BUT, folks, that’s OK.

Unlike some competitors, who can release shoddy software and call it “Beta” so that they don’t have to support it, until they discover it really didn’t hit the mark and kill it (Wave, anyone?), Microsoft once again proves in these releases that it can get a product across the finish line, release it to the hundreds of millions of people around the globe that are Microsoft customers, and stand behind the product.

There’s zero doubt that Microsoft will be adding features to these apps. OneNote 1.3 is bare bones, to be sure. But it’s out the door, and now the team can get moving on adding some of the many high value features of OneNote to the next revision.

Same with Lync and SkyDrive. No doubt that more will come.

Personally, the next app release that I’m jones-ing for is whatever the Skype+Lync integration produces. I really, really miss having Skype on my Windows Phone 7.

Perhaps the most important thing to be “released” this week is insight into Microsoft’s current direction, which is to spread its applications across platforms. There’s a lot of internal debate at Microsoft about whether to “covet” Microsoft Office and other applications, and keep them running on Windows only.

I don’t agree with that position. In fact, I think “holding back” this far has hurt Microsoft, as people have turned to QuickOffice, Keynote, Pages, and other Office replacements only because they needed to work—somehow—on their iPads and iPhones and such.

I really hope and expect that in 2012 we will continue to see Microsoft spread its development across platforms.

Sure, Windows 8 desktop and phone will be “best”—providing the deepest integration and richest feature set for applications, but iOS and Android should be “better” and “good” experiences for application users, as well.

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