Microsoft VARs: Demand Growing For Mobile Business Apps

Images of the first smartphones from Microsoft's top secret 'Pink' project surfaced this week, along with assertions that the devices will be consumer focused and will use the app store model that Danger pioneered with the Sidekick.

The problem, according to VARs, is that the entrenched popularity of the iPhone, as well as impressive new devices such as the Palm Pre, could make it tough for Microsoft to wow consumers with a sufficient level of device "cool factor" in the devices that may emerge from Pink.

Instead of going after consumers, some VARs would rather see Microsoft continue moving its vast expertise in business applications down to mobile devices. "If Microsoft can continue to harness the power of business applications for mobile phones, they'll see tremendous growth in their mobile platform," said Steven Mulka, a partner with SIS, a Duluth, Ga.-based solution provider.

Microsoft does offer tools for partners to develop their own mobile applications and integrate them with existing offerings such as Microsoft Dynamics. Adding additional tools for extending existing applications down to the mobile device level would help bring Microsoft's mobile strategy up to speed on the business side, according to Mulka.

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NSPI, a solution provider and MSP in Roswell, Ga., has significant hosted environment investments that have been deployed using Microsoft code. Stephen Moss, COO of NSPI, says businesses have a hearty appetite for applications that can extend the enterprise out to their mobile workforce, and that this driving a steady stream of business his way.

"Mobile is almost a given for our customers choosing to use fully managed hosted applications," Moss said.

With Windows Mobile 6.5 devices due to arrive next month, Microsoft is preparing to launch Windows Marketplace For Mobile, an app store that seeks to duplicate the success of Apple's in a way that's tailored toward Microsoft's army of ISV developers.