One of the things I love about my smartphone is that it can keep me connected and productive no matter where I go. However, when it comes to connecting to some networks and network resources, the lack of VPN support in Windows Phone 7.5 "Mango" is an issue.
There is a lot that I love about "Mango". There are many compelling aspects of Windows Phone 7 that may make me seriously consider whether to go back to my iPhone 4 (or upgrade to the iPhone 5) when all is said and done. But, not having VPN is a serious handicap that greatly reduces the value of the smartphone for me.
Case in point: I had launched an article on PCWorld and left my office to grab some lunch. While I was out, I decided to pull the post up on my "Mango" smartphone to make sure the proverbial I's were crossed and the T's were dotted as appropriate and I discovered an error that needed to be corrected. So, I…well, nothing. I suddenly realized the hard way that there was nothing I could do about it using Windows Phone 7 because there is no VPN for me to connect with PCWorld to get into the tools.
If I had my iPhone 4, I would just tap the Cisco AnyConnect app, and I would be connected to the PCWord VPN in a matter of seconds. I'd open the Safari browser, go to the PCWorld CMS tool to open my article and make the necessary edits, and voila! Three minutes later the article would be fixed and I'd be back to enjoying my lunch.
Microsoft has designed "Mango" to connect securely with Microsoft backend resources like Exchange using RPC over HTTPS. The RPC over HTTPS connection does provide an encrypted tunnel that protects the data traveling between "Mango" and Exchange. Unfortunately, many businesses don't have Exchange, or don't have RPC over HTTPS enabled. And--even for those that do--the RPC over HTTPS connection to Exchange won't help me connect to the PCWorld servers to access the CMS tool.
A thread titled "VPN support on Windows Phone 7" from the Microsoft Answers forums expresses some of the concern and disappointment over VPN from other Windows Phone users.
A reader with the handle Pavel.O666 says, "Yes, VPN is ESSENTIAL please…needed it yesterday!"
And, another reader--Envio--adds, "It's funny how people assume that everyone here must work for a company that is basically a Microsoft shop, full of toys like RPC over HTTPS that can be turned on at will. Couldn't happen in my company because we don't even use Exchange and corporate policy dictates that we have restricted access to corporate e-mail via a VPN or if you're lucky, a web portal (which relies on a Citrix Gateway, also not doable on WP7). "
"Mango" is awesome. The massive volume of changes and improvements in "Mango" takes Windows Phone 7 to a new level, and makes it a worthy mobile OS rival--as a consumer smartphone. Hopefully Microsoft is hard at work on "Papaya" or "Dragonfruit" or whatever the next major release of Windows Phone 7 will be--and hopefully that update will do for business users what "Mango" has done for consumers--including adding VPN support.