Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Leave it to Micro$oft to want to take the Government backwards...

We've seen some proactive attempts to lower costs and increase choice in the public sector when it comes to the technology tools tax payers must foot the bill for. The U.K. Government's decision to look at open source software, for example, as an alternative to using products like Microsoft Office across entire departments could lead to major cost savings, according to a policy document. The policy is pretty broad, where the UK Government will consider OSS solutions alongside proprietary ones in IT procurements. Contracts will be awarded on a value for money basis and the UK Government will only use products for interoperability that support open standards and specifications in all future IT developments. This approach ensures avoiding lock-in to proprietary IT products and services.

Of course, when the iPhone debuted, the government was fully committed to Blackberry. Getting a new mobile platform in the door at U.S. federal agencies was no small task -- even with Apple's "walled garden" that made secure apps possible, and the "sandbox" memory partitions that keep iOS secure. Microsoft's own phone offering, a laggard in the consumer space, only just recently was able to get certification. Demand for the iPhone drove adoption at agencies -- just like Blackberry did back in 2001-2003. However, a lesson learned from that experience was that proprietary means more expensive -- and, with the iPhone, the concept of Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) was born. Now we see MS trying to roll back the clock, leveraging Exchange dominance to enforce use of its own products.

One of the most interesting things that struck me was that while many companies are developing products and services to help with Bring Your Own Device initiates, quite a few people, either privately or off the record, seemed to feel BYOD in government was a passing phase. So while the focus of many mobility efforts are squarely on BYOD, there is a huge pool of people who apparently don’t think it can, or should, last within government.

That means that instead, government agencies will eventually fall back to the older model where a set of uniform devices are purchased and configured by an agency and then deployed to users. But what devices will be used? A few years ago, the answer was easy: BlackBerry. But with its declining fortunes, it’s safe to say other companies are smelling blood in the water. BlackBerry was so successful at getting into government service because it offered a highly secure alternative, though not necessarily a more convenient one, to every consumer phone on the market at the time.

Windows phones have not done so well in the consumer market compared to Android and iOS devices, so the move toward government and business makes sense

Sometime this spring, Microsoft plans to push out an Enterprise Feature pack to every Windows phone. This heavy set of tools includes the ability to use S/MIME to sign and encrypt email, automatically configure and access information through a VPN tunnel and the important ability to manage, enroll, update and revoke security certificates for users on a corporate or government network.

Let's hope tight budgets and common sense push CIOs to reject a fall-back to the dark days of Blackberry dominance. Read more of John Breedon's view here...

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