How will Microsoft fix Windows Mobile? The Softies still aren't saying

I thought Microsoft officials might drop a hint or two at today's Financial Analyst Meeting about Windows Mobile 7, the company's next big release of its mobile operating system, to show that innovation really is possible in the WinMo business. Or maybe offer up a quick demo of the Microsoft "Pink" phone. But no such luck.

Microsoft execs speaking to Wall Street analysts at the company's annual Financial Analyst Meeting (FAM) have been up front about the fact that Windows Mobile is a problem child for Microsoft. Unit volumes are slighly up but Microsoft's share of the mobile-phone operating system market is down.

I thought officials might drop a hint or two about Windows Mobile 7, the company's next big release of its mobile operating system, to show that innovation really is possible in the WinMo business. Or maybe offer up a quick demo of the Microsoft "Pink" phone.

(Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer made sure to repeat that Microsoft won't be developing its own phone; it'll be providing the software and services, he said. But he didn't go so far as to say there won't be a Microsoft-branded phone, built by a third-party phone maker, which is what the "Pink" phone supposedly is.)

At the July 30 FAM event, Entertainment and Devices President Robbie Bach didn't provide any new answers to the many questions company watchers have about Microsoft's mobile fix-it plans.

Bach mentioned Windows Mobile 6.5, which will be showing up on the first phones this October. But beyond that, he remained vague about how Microsoft is going to fix its Windows Mobile business, beyond committing to what company officials have promised already.

"The fundamentals of our strategy are based on the idea of choice and selection. It is our view that one model, one type of phone is not going to build volume into that critical mass that we think we need to make the business successful," Bach told FAM attendees. "We have people who are going to want Qwerty keyboard, touch keyboard, big screen, people who want small screens. People who will make trade offs on battery life to do media. So it is our view we need to work closely with Samsung, LG, HP, HTC, Sony Ericcson and others to build a broad selection of phones with different price points and different functionality."

Bach threw in the gratuitous reference to the iPhone, but, again, no mention of Windows Mobile 7 -- the first real competitor Microsoft is expected to have to Apple, in terms of multi-touch support.

"You will have a very rich browsing experience on 6.5 devices that will give you access to more Web sites than you will be able to get to on an iPhone that will work actively and work well," he said. "It really is a much better experience."

Bach reiterated that Microsoft will be moving to the already-announced "Windows Phone" branding with its advertising and marketing, starting this fall.

Last I heard, Microsoft is quite far along with Windows Mobile 7 and will be providing its phone partners with code this fall. The first WinMo 7 phones could show up by spring 2010, unless the Softies' schedule slips.

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