Measuring the Impact of Windows 10 Mobile on Microsoft Certification
Windows 10 Mobile is the name of Microsoft's new operating system for its line of smartphones. Windows 10 Mobile (hereinafter shortened to Win10M) has not seen an official release outside of the Insider beta program as of this writing, but is expected to see the full light of day before the end of 2015.
Win10M has a feature named Continuum which lets a user wirelessly connect or physically dock a Win10M smartphone to a keyboard, video display and mouse (KVM). In this configuration, the phone can be used like a conventional Windows 10 PC.
A Win10M phone connected to a KVM setup can run any application that's been developed using the Universal Windows Platform (UWP). UWP applications are coded to run on any Windows 10 device, be it a desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone. Windows Universal apps can dynamically adapt and scale themselves to whatever device and display is being used. Microsoft has created UWP versions of its core MS Office apps: Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint and OneNote.
Windows phones have achieved little success in a marketplace dominated by devices running either Android or iOS. With Win10M, Microsoft is using its larger Windows 10 campaign to try to revitalize its failing smartphone business.
This strategy was on display at Microsoft's highly publicized hardware event held a few weeks ago. The event included the announcement of two new flagship Win10M phones — the Lumia 950 and 950XL. One of these new phones was used in an impressive Win10M Continuum demonstration. ("I can be productive like a boss!" has officially entered the geek phrasebook, thanks to Microsoft marketing manager Bryan Roper's enthusiastic presentation.)
On the surface, it's a compelling use case: an employee could connect their Win10M phone to any KVM setup (Microsoft has released a new dock peripheral specially designed for this purpose) and use their phone as an efficient thin client device, one that comes loaded with fully functional MS Office apps, as well as Skype, Cortana and OneDrive integration.
To further sweeten the Win10M adoption pot, Microsoft has announced Project IslandWood: an in-house effort to create a UWP-to-iOS bridge that would let iOS developers reuse an app's existing code to create a Windows Universal version of that app. If Microsoft can make this happen, it could be a powerful solution to the sparse app selection that has plagued Windows phones for years.
Whether Microsoft's push to get Win10M into the enterprise succeeds or fails, it raises an interesting question: how will the release of Win10M impact Microsoft's certification program?
There's a hint of an answer in the information being provided for the first confirmed Windows 10 certification exam 70-697: Configuring Windows Devices. (Notice there is no Windows version number in the exam's name. Historically, Microsoft desktop OS exams have had version numbers in their names. Does this mean that Windows 10 will, as some pundits have suggested, be the "final" version of Windows moving forward?)
Microsoft has positioned Windows 10 as a fully unified OS that will run on every device under the sun. The 70-697 exam name confirms this viewpoint; as far as Microsoft is concerned, anything running Windows 10 is now a "Windows device," whether it's a phone, tablet, laptop, desktop, or other.
This idea is reinforced by the knowledge domain descriptions for the 70-697 exam as provided by the Microsoft Learning website. The exam content descriptions are all device-agnostic; there is no specific mention of supporting a Win10M phone over a Windows 10 tablet, for example.
Is Windows 10 Mobile, however, really identical to Windows 10? Contrary to marketing rhetoric, it seems unlikely.
Windows 10 is primarily used on devices using 64-bit processors from Intel or AMD. Win10M is primarily for devices equipped with ARM-based system-on-chip (SoC) processors, a common hardware choice for smartphones and small tablets. This differentiation was also the motivation behind the creation of Windows RT as a separate OS from Windows 8.
Even without code differences, it seems unlikely that every configuration option, support task, and update strategy will be the same for devices running Windows 10 and Win10M. But, it appears this is how Microsoft's 70-697 certification exam will approach the subject.
For now, it's reasonable to think that the release of Win10M will not impact the content of the first few Windows 10 certification exams. But, if Microsoft is able to achieve some significant market share with its new phone OS, it's possible that some Win10M-specific content might appear in a future Windows 10 exam revision.