It's no secret that Microsoft has been advertising its new smartphone platform, Windows Phone 7, at the consumer market to compete with the hoards of Android devices and iPhones already in end users' hands. However, there are signs that the company hasn't entirely forgotten its enterprise roots that initially made Windows Mobile a success with businesses. One clear indication of this in Windows Phone 7 (WP7) is the mobile OS's inclusion of SharePoint as an integrated part of the Office hub.
You'd be hard pressed to find a consumer who'd want or need anything to do with SharePoint outside the workplace. (Naturally, I'm not talking here about external-facing SharePoint sites, which most consumers wouldn't recognize as such if they saw them.) However, having easy access to SharePoint sites on a mobile device might well be a draw for anyone who's likely to use that smartphone both for work and play. Furthermore, improvements in Office Mobile's document rendering make it possible to go beyond the simple edits of previous versions—and what's available on other smartphone platforms. You can get real work done, and SharePoint is the collaboration tool to facilitate it, just as it is when you're in the office.
So, let's take a look at a few of the top things to keep in mind when thinking of using WP7 together with your SharePoint sites.
1. SharePoint Workspace Mobile—First of all, you get SharePoint integration automatically. SharePoint Workspace Mobile is included in the Office hub on all WP7 phones. So, no matter who the hardware maker is, or what carrier you purchase a contract from—along with any extra gunk they might install—you'll find SharePoint in the same place on the device. Along with SharePoint Workspace Mobile, you can also connect to SharePoint sites through the mobile browser.
2. Connection caveats—OK, this is where things get a little tricky. WP7 integration with SharePoint works only with SharePoint 2010 for starters. To connect to a site through SharePoint Workspace Mobile, you have to use Wi-Fi and you can connect only to SharePoint intranet sites that use Windows authentication—anything else will lead to an error. To connect to a SharePoint site via the mobile browser, you'll need to do some special configuration and, most importantly, you need to be running a Microsoft Forefront Unified Access Gateway (UAG) server. They haven't exactly made it terribly easy to take advantage of this SharePoint integration with this initial release of WP7—but when it works, it's really sweet. Read on.
3. Work on Office documents—When you're logged on to a SharePoint site on your WP7 device, you can see and browse the content just as you could on a PC. You can open Office documents from document libraries—Word, Excel, PowerPoint—and they're rendered on the smartphone precisely as they appear on any other computer. Only if you choose to edit a document will it download the full document onto the phone, and the interface handles the check out from SharePoint. When you save the document, it syncs your changes back to the SharePoint server so other members of your team can see the latest version. The interface will also detect conflicts in case someone else has modified the document at the same time and give you options for how you want to resolve any problems.
4. Offline documents—One feature I find particularly intriguing is the ability to keep versions of SharePoint documents locally on your WP7 device such that they will be continually updated as changes are made to the version on the SharePoint server. This ability lets you work on a document even when you don't have a connection to the SharePoint site for one reason or other. When you go online again, your changes will sync back to the site automatically. Changes made on the server side aren't synced to the phone version automatically; when you open the document on the phone, you'll get a notification if there's a more recent version available on the server, which you can download or not. This way, you get some control over the bandwidth being used and can avoid unexpected data syncs.