Tech.Ed is a series of annual conferences that Microsoft holds around the world. It's primarily a technical training event but there are also high level keynote sessions covering Microsoft and partner's products, services and strategies and a large Expo floor where many companies have booths promoting their development tools and enterprise products and services. The majority of attendees at Tech.Ed seemed to be corporate developers and IT folks.
Nokia is a Tech.Ed sponsor and they had a big booth at Tech.Ed where they showed off Symbian's strong integration with Microsoft enterprise services and the recently announced E7 business smartphone.
Ukko Lappalainen, VP for E Series and Workspace Productivity, delivered Nokia's keynote at Tech.Ed. He focused on the results of the year old partnership between Microsoft and Nokia. The two companies have used that time to improve the implementation of Microsoft's Enterprise Solutions, including Exchange, Communicator and Sharepoint on Nokia devices. The result is a strong competitor to RIM, Apple and Android in the business mobility area.
Contrary to popular belief, the BlackBerry is not the leader in enterprise email. According to Ukko 71.5% of mobile access to corporate email is powered by Microsoft Exchange, compared with only 16.1% for RIM and 5.9% for IBM's Lotus Notes.
The Mail for Exchange client for Nokia Symbian devices provides push email and real-time calendar, tasks and contacts synchronization. The client comes pre-installed on all current E Series devices and is available as a free download from the Ovi Store for most other Symbian smartphones.
Nokia's support for Microsoft Enterprise services is not limited to email either. Microsoft Communicator Mobile for Symbian lets users securely access corporate instant messaging. The client supports presence meaning users can see their contact's status (available, busy or offline) in real-time.
Nokia's E series phones include the full version of Quick Office which supports editing, viewing and creation of Microsoft Office 2007 documents.
Microsoft SharePoint 2010 provides access to Sharepoint sites, lists, blogs, document libraries, search and version control with mobile formatted pages optimized for the Nokia browser.
A significant advantage of the Microsoft/Nokia solution is lower cost of ownership. There's a savings on device costs as basic Symbian business smartphones like the E63 and E5 have a price advantage over similar BlackBerrys. But the bigest savings is on the back end. If a business is already using Exchange, Communicator or Sharepoint, no additional hardware or licenses are required to provide mobile access. Ukko presented a case study of how JCDecaux (PDF), the big Paris based multi-national outdoor advertising company was able to reduce costs and increase employee productivity with Nokia. Decaux had been giving BlackBerrys, to 14% of their key employees. By replacing the Blackberrys for a sub-set of employees with Nokia E63s for everyone, Decaux was able give mobile push email to 100% of their employees while reducing costs and increasing workforce productivy
There are a number of other reasons for businesses to use Nokia devices. Ovi Maps provides employees with free mapping and navigation including lifetime free map and POI updates. Its vector based maps and ability to work offline using local maps mean less data consumption and allow Ovi Maps work reliability in areas with a weak or no signal. Symbian provides unmatched security, including remote handset configuration and the ability to remotely lock or wipe a lost or stolen phone. Companies can reduce their environmental impact by choosing Nokia, which has the greenest range of handsets in the business.
Ukko showed off the soon to be released Nokia E7 which he called the ultimate business smartphone. I got a chance to play with several E7 prototypes on the Nokia stand. The E7 has the styling and quality materials of the N8 but is noticeably heavier and a bit larger in every dimension. In return for the extra bulk and size you you get a roomy, four row, slide out QWERTY keyboard and a four inch screen (vs. 3.5 inches on the N8). I really liked the keyboard which has large, well spaced keys with good tactile feedback. Like the N8, the E7 has an HDMI TV-out port for showing presentations on the big screen and USB on the Go which lets you connect and use thumb drives, USB keyboards, mice and most other low power USB devices with the phone.
I'm excited about the E7 which Nokia says will begin shipping around Christmas in some markets with world wide availability in early 2011.
Disclaimer: My expenses for the trip to Tech.Ed, including airfare, hotel, meals, drinks, and admission to the conference were paid for by the 1000heads agency on behalf of Nokia. However, the opinions expressed here are entirely my own.