Rapid mobile OS development hurting Windows Mobile

Rapid mobile OS development hurting Windows Mobile

Summary: Lost in the Palm Pre device and WebOS is this fact: It's an exciting time of non-stop development for mobile operating systems--and it's killing Windows Mobile.Mary Jo Foley notes that Microsoft will show the next version of Windows Mobile next month.

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Lost in the Palm Pre device and WebOS is this fact: It's an exciting time of non-stop development for mobile operating systems--and it's killing Windows Mobile.

Mary Jo Foley notes that Microsoft will show the next version of Windows Mobile next month. That's good news because Microsoft has to do something--Windows Mobile looks homely relative to the new entrants. winmobile2.png

A brief recap of the last year or two in the wonderful world of mobile:

fred.pngAnd then you have Windows Mobile, which looks more stale by the minute--even when you consider the relatively new Windows Mobile 6.1. It hit me on the plane home last week. Most folks had one of two devices: iPhone (west coast folks going east) and BlackBerries (east coast folks going home). The guy across the way had his Windows Mobile device. He might as well been using Fred Flintstone's iStone.

I felt for the guy (since I had a Motorola Q just a few weeks ago). The menus, the interface, the bad browser (IE 6!) and this Windows 98 feeling.

Why is Microsoft so pokey with Windows Mobile? Shouldn't there be sneak peaks of what's to come?

A few thoughts:

  • Microsoft views Windows Mobile as part of Windows. That's desktop thinking--where Microsoft dominates--instead of mobile thinking.
  • Open source. Newfangled mobile operating systems aren't reinventing the wheel. Browsing technologies are built on Webkit. Mobile OSes such as Palm's latest and Android have a Linux base.
  • Developers are stoked for the new stuff. Developers are embracing these application communities and using rapid fire coding.

In any case, Microsoft needs to move faster on the Mobile side. It risks being lapped.

Topics: Mobility, Mobile OS, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

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  • Motorola discontinuing Windows Mobile based smartphones

    http://www.phonescoop.com/news/item.php?n=3804

    But they ARE going to produce Android based smartphones. Seems that when going got tough, they booted Windows Mobile in favor of the open source operating system. I wonder if we will see similar behavior from other manufacturers.
    Theli
    • Adopting Android seems like a no-brainer

      Android seems like a no-brainer to adopt. Everyone benefits because:

      1. It is a small, fast, secure, portable, stable and license-free mobile platform.

      2. It is community developed. There is no need to wait for a single company to decide if/when they will deliver something.

      3. It provides an application delivery platform for value-added applications/services (free or revenue generating).

      4. It is open source, so it can be custom tailored by device vendors for the desired look-and-feel.

      5. It allows vendors to focus on devices/applications/services (REAL revenue), rather than proprietary OS development & support.

      I think the best thing device vendors can do is to be early to market, to take advantage of the pent-up demand for Android devices. HTC has a bit of an advantage, in this regard.
      linuser
      • Not entirely true

        Not until someone hacks a port of it to work on your WM phone on your provider with all features enabled, does it make sense to move to Android.

        So, developers, please get to it!
        Sodbuster41
      • Agreed.

        The main thing to remember is that MS is (as usual) just being reactionary, and slapping code together as quickly as it can, with as many little lock-in hooks as possible.

        People don't want that on their mobile phones too. They've had a wake up call with Vista, and that had years of development time.

        The new version of WinMobile will be limiting, unreliable and frustrating. You can bet your bottom dollar on that.

        Look Mr Mobile vendor, it's now 3 years later and MS are saying to you that it's all change again!!!!

        There's one thing that YOU CAN GUARANTEE : Bullmer telling people that whatever they have slapped together is "clearly the best mobile OS and much further up the road than the competition ... etc etc etc".

        The only people who believe a word Microsoft say are the numpties who's only contribution to technology is keeping even bigger numpties "impressed" with their MCSE.
        Amelioration
        • Regarding development

          I've been developing my whole life and have been developing Mobile apps since 2002. One thing I know I can count on with Windows Mobile in the future, is that I'll be able to continue to develop with the .NET framework. For those of you that aren't developers; this is an incredible development platform. I'm no M$ fan either... I use OpenOffice, and used to code only with Borland tools... Vista has problems and the Windows 7 beta is even worse... but I've gotta tell ya: .NET is here to stay and I cringe at developing without it (yet, I will be doing that anyway, with Android and iPhone, almost for sure).

          Microsoft has really dropped the ball with keeping the WM UI updated, which is why I'm thinking about doing development on other mobile platforms, but I've gotta tell you that developing for Windows Mobile with the .NET compact framework could not possibly be easier and it is a sheer pleasure to do it. I reluctantly look at developing for Android and iPhone ONLY because WM market share seems to be dwindling. Hopefully M$ is serious about what they're saying about reinvigerating WM. Let's just hope it's not going down the same path they're going with W7 or I'll jump ship for sure.
          Software Architect 1982
    • Not really

      Motorola said that they'll be using Android for their lower end phones and Windows Mobile for their high end phones. They recently showed the upcoming A3100 which is a full touchscreen Windows Mobile device, albeit built on the aged WM6.1.

      Remember that WM5.0, 6.0 and 6.1 is essentially the same OS with a few enhancements. WM6.5 will follow suit and I hope that 7.0 will be totally overhauled.

      I simply can't understand how a huge corporation like Microsoft with all of those developers can take so darn long to get anything done. I mean I know that they work on a lot of stuff, but this is ridiculous. Even the guys in Microsoft are using iPhones and touting iPhones, because they know how much WM sucks.

      Everyone knows that Microsoft can do it, now if they'll just do it quickly!
      General C#
      • I agree

        [i]I simply can't understand how a huge corporation like Microsoft with all of those developers can take so darn long to get anything done. I mean I know that they work on a lot of stuff, but this is ridiculous. Even the guys in Microsoft are using iPhones and touting iPhones, because they know how much WM sucks.

        Everyone knows that Microsoft can do it, now if they'll just do it quickly![/i]

        The iPhone has been out for over 1 1/2 years, and Windows Mobile 7 might not be released this year. Why are things taking so long?
        P. Douglas
        • Perhaps they are porting Windows 7 to mobiles ?

          "The iPhone has been out for over 1 1/2 years, and Windows Mobile 7 might not be released this year. Why are things taking so long?"

          I have the disturbing feeling that if Microsoft needed so much time to come with Windows mobile 7, it is perhaps because they are porting Windows 7 to smartphones.
          Taking advantage of all the work related to MinWin and using the Windows Netbook edition as a base they could certainly trim down Windows 7 to the point that it could run on smartphones.They could for example remove all kind of compatiblity with previous Windows O.S, remove support for virtually any kind of PC hardware(especially drivers) and build a virtualization layer for Windows mobile 6.x.
          Then they would just need to build a U.I more taylored for smartphones than AERO.
          Windows 7 already supports multitouch so this would enable them to leverage this capability.
          Then last but not least by reducing the number of devices aimed at running Windows mobile 7 they can push smartphones companies to use an evolution of the Atom CPU,low power enough to be suitable for a smartphone or use a specific family of CPU/Chipset,like Nvidia Tecra.
          timiteh
        • I disagree.

          Microsoft has essentially proven over the last
          several years that they [i]can't[/i] do it any more.
          Going all the way back to Win XP, the started
          development of their new OS they code-named
          Longhorn. For over 4 years they hyped Longhorn
          as the next step in desktop OSes, then went into
          panic mode because Longhorn was far from ready
          at the original projected release date. So much so
          that they stripped half of the features out and
          released what was left as Vista; obviously an
          unfinished work from the outset and still not
          anywhere near where Microsoft intended for it to
          be. By all appearances, Win7 might finally complete
          Longhorn and be what they intended all along,
          more than 3 years later than originally scheduled.

          Now you look at the different WinMob versions. To
          some people's eye, WinMob is hardly any different
          from Win95 or '98 while Android and the iPhone's
          version of OS X appear far cleaner and easier to
          use. Motorola is obviously seeing the writing on
          the wall, and if they don't want to go down with
          the ship, they need to find a lifeboat that can take
          them where they want to go.

          No, Microsoft hasn't proven their abilities in years.
          They got so complacent with being the biggest
          and, essentially, the only game in town that they
          haven't yet figured out how to compete with the
          'new boys.' Maybe they can fix their problems, but
          it seems to me unlikely they will ever own the
          market again.
          Vulpinemac
          • Vista vs. Windows 7

            I agree with Vulpine 100%

            "...Win7 might finally complete Longhorn and be what they intended all along, more than 3 years later than originally scheduled...."

            Check out an interview with Ballmer at ZDNet "Ballmer touts Windows 7 features":
            http://news.zdnet.com/2422-19178_22-242240.html

            He argues that a R or SP reflects a "minor release" therefore, because there are so many improvements in Win7 it must be a new version. This is utter BS! Win7 is really just a service pack. Win7 is to Vista like SP2 was to XP. The only reason Win7 is a major release is because it has much of what it should have had when it was first promised but left out of the release. What is really happening is that MS wins double by calling it a new version as you purchased the short lived Vista and now you must buy Win7, in order to get what you should have gotten the first time around. Not to overlook that fact that Vista bombed and from a marketing standpoint they have to abandon the name Vista. Can you say Windows Me?

            He also said if he were buying a PC today he would buy and deploy Vista. Does anyone actually have a choice if they want a MS-Windows OS? If you custom order from Dell and you want to pay triple the price XP was a year ago, which is $150 now, you can still get XP. I work with the IT departments of a lot of large corporations in the SW, and maybe about 1% are using or considering Vista...the rest are all XP Pro SP2.
            CaptainK
          • Vista vs. Windows7

            Microsoft can't give any reason to "upgarde" to Vista from XP other than "it boots faster". No kidding! That's what they told our IT execs when they asked... and it took M$ 3 days to come up with that answer.

            That being said, Windows 7 does NOT have anything new that was left out of Vista. I've been using the beta and there's nothing particularly new in it except that they have yet again rearranged the UI, making it more difficult and they have actually REMOVED some capabilities. W7 is horrible as it sits right now and offers nothing new and will only impede your productivity.
            Software Architect 1982
      • Incorrect...

        According to what I'm reading today Motorola will use Android for ALL of their smartphones.

        As far as Microsoft being able to do it....I wouldn't be so sure that the can. MS sometimes gets alot of credit it doesn't deserve based off cornering the desktop market. I take not of some people being shocked when you point out that MS isn't the leader in various areas where they have assumed that they are mainly because they've only been exposed to their products and Windows on the desktop is so common. In the places they haven't cornered the market they aren't beating anyone over the head and sometimes find themselves in 3rd place or lower.
        storm14k
        • From what I have been reading today

          [i]Motorola drops Symbian and Linux Java in favor of Android and Windows Mobile[/i]

          They would be foolish to drop an operating system that many business users request. Why would they even consider it, as they are is a shakey enough position as it is.
          GuidingLight
          • "business users request"

            I think you must have misread your brief. It would surely have said "business users DEMAND".

            That's more like MS talk. LOL.

            You crease me up. Really. Now go away and get a life.
            Amelioration
          • EAS

            GuidingLight has a point, if a smartphone does not have Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) on it, that cuts Exchange users out (unless the admin allows IMAP or POP access), which cuts out many companies.

            If handset manufacturers can license EAS and integrate it with Android though, it's game on.
            Gritztastic
          • Where have you been?

            EAS (Client Side) can be licensed and most Palms, all iPhones, and many Nokias have had it baked in for a long time now. Android got it last week from a 3rd party.
            JoeMama_z
      • It's EZ to Understand...

        why MSFT with all its developers can't get things done. Read "The Mythical Man-Month" and it will all become very clear: adding more people to a late project makes it later.

        Yes, sad but true, Fred Brooks explained it so well, yet MSFT has yet to learn that lesson.

        But this should not be so surprising, since I showed the same book to a product manager at a major software vendor for Sprint not long ago, and he admitted: "we made every mistake described in that book".

        People who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
        mejohnsn
  • Hmm...

    ...the iPhone was actually released in 2007, not last year. I'd also point out that you seemed to have missed WinMo's 6.1 release in April 2008.

    Still, never mind.

    That said, WinMo does need to improve the UI to make it more consumer friendly. Although HTC, Samsung and SPB have done a good job with replacements a consolidated, refreshed UI is desperately needed to make it more marketable.

    In addition MS need to insist on certain hardware feature - USB chargers and 3.5mm jack sockets spring to mind.

    As for Android, probably too early to tell yet although I can't really see how it's going to compete with Symbian.
    Sleeper Service
    • good points, updated

      re iPhone and the year, I was really thinking last two years. Also noted and updated my post to reflect 6.1, which I view as a minor advance. My point--and yours--was the UI. Win Mobile lacks the aesthetics and buzz to forge ahead. That's why Palm and Samsung have been trying to gussy WinMobile up with tweaks. Microsoft needs to move faster. Much faster.
      Larry Dignan
      • I agree...

        ...the default UI - whilst fine for business - just doesn't cut it as consumer grade.

        MS should buy SPB and let them sort it out.
        Sleeper Service