Thursday, December 10, 2009

Windows Mobile is going to be another Windows Vista

Microsoft is facing horrible challenge to fix the problems in its Windows Mobile division. That won't be very easy because Windows Mobile is starting to resemble a disaster which occurred three years ago with Windows Vista.

As was the case with Windows Vista, repeated Windows Mobile 7 delays are disappointing Microsoft's longtime industry partners. Motorola earlier this year shifted its focus towards Google Android devices and shifted away from Windows Mobile. Verizon, which has been tied to rumors about Microsoft's attempting Pink smartphone project, recently kicked off a marketing push for Droid, Motorola Android powered handset, and may also have agreed to move on.

Meanwhile, Microsoft's channel partners are also seeing diminishing demand for Windows Mobile-related business. One of the official said that they have stopped working with Windows Mobile because their client base isn't asking for it and they have gone to Blackberry because that is in demand and they are seeing a lot of clients who are asking for iPhone. The pressure on Microsoft is increasing who wants to hit a home run with Windows Mobile 7, but that could lead to the kind of bloated, complex feature set the cause for Vista doom. Additionally, Microsoft is so far behind in the mobile game at this point that it requires at least a couple runners on base before it begin swinging for the fences. However, when Windows Mobile ships it's got to be a winner, it cannot be another Vista, and Microsoft knows it, replied one of the Microsoft officials.

Based on a Microsoft job posting in March, the company isn't just trying to catch-up; it wants to transform the mobile business completely. The posting mentions what Microsoft expects to get with Windows Mobile 7 in the following terms. Microsoft official said that they aren't just building a me-too iPhone or RIM competitor; they are changing the way customers use and experience their device.

Windows Mobile 7, initially scheduled for release in 2008, isn't expected to come until spring of next year at the earliest. Microsoft executives have said tantalizingly little about what Windows Mobile 7 will include, although multi-touch and gesture recognition support are thought to be part of the launch. Microsoft has also said that none of the sessions at next month's Professional Developer Conference will concentrate on Windows Mobile 7. In April last year, CEO Steve Ballmer termed Windows Mobile 7 as an area of major excitement and innovation. Ballmer spoke of Microsoft's Windows Mobile missteps in frank terms and said Microsoft has taken steps to correct them, in a meeting with Silicon Valley venture capitalists.

Microsoft simply hasn't kept pace with the fast moving mobile device market, and the collective industry yawn that accompanied the arrival of Windows Mobile 6.5 devices earlier this month is just the latest example. Meanwhile, Research In Motion, Apple, Google, and Palm have been churning out new smartphones with clocklike regularity. Microsoft partners aren't satisfied with the way things have played out in the Windows Mobile group, but they're still hoping Microsoft to make a comeback. CEO of Vertigo Software, Scott Stanfield, doesn't see anything fundamentally problematic with Microsoft's approach to Windows Mobile. He said that Microsoft's strategy is a good one - they enable a world class body of support for partners, and we use one platform for development, Windows, with one set of tools and technologies.

Stanfield still thinks that Microsoft can make up lost ground but concedes that time is not on its side given the fast product launch pace of Microsoft's mobile rivals. He also said that Windows Mobile has problems that are out of our control, and it's now a matter of how swiftly they can commercially launch Windows Mobile 7 to market before the clock runs out.

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