HOUSTON: Like most large technology companies, Microsoft has been going through something of a jumbled metamorphosis over the past few years.
Recent advances in the technology industry have let a number of (relatively) younger, more aggressive companies, like Google and Amazon, wrestle large chunks of former powerhouses' traditional services and hardware markets.
While a little competition is always a good thing in any industry, usually sparking bold leaps in innovation as each player attempts to differentiate themselves, the young upstarts' success has given IT managers a serious headache.
The success of players like Google and Amazon has destroyed most businesses' traditional network and IT models. As noted by numerous analyst houses and IT professionals, trends like bring-your-own-device and bring-your-own-application mean that CSOs now have to deal with a raft of ecosystems and devices when managing and protecting corporate networks and data.
This was clearly on Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's mind when took the helm and announced he would push Microsoft to become a cloud and mobile first company that would cater for all modern business needs.
The first sign of this strategy bearing fruit emerged earlier this year when Microsoft launched its Office 365 suite of applications on Apple iOS. Offering iPad users access to popular Microsoft applications including Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Outlook, the launch was definitely a move in the right direction.
However, a lack of critical services, like the ability to securely manage iPads using the Office 365 applications, limited the wider significance of the release and meant it was of little use to enterprise companies.
Now, a few months on at its TechEd 2014 conference, Microsoft fixed this issue, rolling out a host of upgrades that on paper should let IT professionals effectively manage and deploy Microsoft applications across multiple ecosystems.
Meanwhile, Microsoft also pledged to integrate its Intune cloud management solution into its Enterprise Mobility Suite and add enhanced encryption technologies to the platform.
The Intune support means that companies using non-Windows devices running Microsoft services, like Office 365, will be able do things like set policies governing which applications and services the devices can use and remotely wipe data stored on them.
The encryption technology backs this up, ensuring that any file stored on Microsoft's SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business services should stay secure even if the device running the application is lost, stolen or hacked.
While these upgrades are great for enterprises, making it quicker and easier to take advantage of key productivity services, they are doubly significant as they show that Microsoft is finally joining the race to offer businesses a converged device, and operating system-agnostic, range of enterprise mobility cloud services.
The only niggling question now is whether Microsoft's TechEd moves will be enough to keep pace and differentiate its offering from the younger competition, which has won several key victories in the UK in recent months.
Most recently this was showcased by Google, which has recently inked contracts with numerous retail chains, including All Saints, and government institutions. The battle is just getting started.
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