What derailed the Windows Mobile 7 train?

Summary:While many industry observers obsessed this week over a report that claimed Microsoft will offer two different Windows Mobile versions to phone makers in the coming year, they glossed over the real news. If Digitimes's August 19 story is correct, Windows Mobile 7 is running about a half-year behind schedule.

While many industry observers obsessed this week over a report that claimed Microsoft will offer two different  Windows Mobile versions to phone makers in the coming year, they glossed over the real news. If Digitimes's August 19 story is correct, Windows Mobile 7 is running about a half-year behind schedule.

Yes, I know that Microsoft hasn't provided publicly a ship-date target for Windows Mobile 7. And if there's no target, no one can claim it's running late. Right?

Wrong. Microsoft has talked privately about delivering Windows Mobile 7 code to phone makers this fall, so that new Windows Mobile 7 phones could hit the market around April 2010. I've seen a roadmap with those dates, and UX Evangelist blogger Stephen Chapman unearthed a Microsoft slide deck from April 2009 with those same dates. Here's a slide from that deck, courtesy of Chapman:

Digitimes is citing Taiwanese handset makers claiming that Microsoft is now hoping to get them code in time to get Windows Mobile 7 phones to market by the end of calendar 2010, which will be a year-plus after the stop-gap Windows Mobile 6.5 release hits the market.

The slip, if it is real, contradicts Microsoft officials' claims at the end of July that the Windows Mobile team has finally started getting the trains running on time. The exact quote, courtesy of Entertainment and Devices unit President Robbie Bach (at the Microsoft Financial Analyst Meeting):

"Windows Mobile 6.5 shipped within four days of its original ship date when we sent it to the hardware manufacturers. That's a great performance in any market, and in a market where you are talking about phones, which is a very complicated release process, we are quite proud of that. And I think you're going to see as we go forward into the future, see our execution rhythm both pick up and the quality of that execution rhythm improve."

As far as the alleged dual-platform strategy for Windows Mobile -- via which Microsoft is said to be readying another version of Windows Mobile for early 2010 which will add support for capacitive touch screens -- I'm not surprised. Microsoft execs hinted a month or so ago that the team was looking for a way to add additional touch support to Windows Mobile beyond what will ship as part of Windows Mobile 6.5. I wouldn't be surprised to see a "Windows Mobile 6.5B" that will be optimized for phones with capacitive screens.

Microsoft execs won't talk about Windows Mobile 7 at all, so I wasn't able to get them to comment on Digitimes' report. Spring 2010 seemed late for Microsoft to be shipping the oft-delayed Windows Mobile 7 release. But end of 2010 for a platform designed to compete, feature-wise, with the iPhone, spells serious trouble for the beleaguered Windows Mobile business.

Anyone have any theories or information about whether the Windows Mobile 7 delay is, in fact, real? And if it is, what led to it?

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobile OS, Operating Systems, Software, Wi-Fi, Windows

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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