No IE Mobile 6 for you; what can Microsoft do about Windows Mobile?

No IE Mobile 6 for you; what can Microsoft do about Windows Mobile?

Summary: There has been a few rants posted over the last week or so about the statement that was made on a Microsoft Windows Mobile blog pertaining to the apparent lack of support for existing devices to support the upcoming Internet Explorer Mobile 6 web browser. What can Microsoft do with Windows Mobile moving forward to compete with the new devices hitting the market?

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No IE Mobile 6 for you; what can Microsoft do about WM?There has been a few rants posted over the last week or so about the statement that was made on a Microsoft Windows Mobile blog pertaining to the apparent lack of support for existing devices to support the upcoming Internet Explorer Mobile 6 web browser. James is one person not happy about it and echoes many of the comments made on the MSDN blog post. Brett is not happy either and made it a point to show how there are third party browsers that exceed anything Microsoft currently has with Internet Explorer Mobile and what it looks like Internet Explorer Mobile 6 may also support.

Microsoft revealed Windows Mobile 6.1 and Internet Explorer Mobile 6 at CTIA in April and most of us thought we would see this latest version of the browser in WM 6.1 devices. That hasn't happened and now it appears it will be in the recently revealed WM 6.5 update or available as a stand-alone download (highly doubtful IMHO). I had no doubt that IE Mobile 6 would run on these latest WM 6.1 devices and frankly I am quite surprised by the statement in the MSDN blog that existing hardware will not run the browser and people will have to buy new devices to use the browser. For people that pay US$200 to US$800 for their latest and greatest Windows Mobile devices and sign long term wireless carrier contracts that is just unacceptable to me and many others. I imagine if it is possible then the good folks over at XDA Developers will get it running on existing hardware. Then again, maybe it really isn't possible, which is hard to believe with devices running 500 to 600 MHz processors and 250+MB of RAM and 500+MB of ROM.

Now let's take a look from Microsoft's side in regards to providing updates on Windows Mobile devices. It is fairly easy for Apple, Nokia, RIM, and Google to provide updates to customers across the board because all of these companies have their own devices. We do see issues though with RIM and Nokia because they have such a large variation in devices and carriers across the world so it isn't that simple and many of their devices go through phased updates or are not updated either. Updates to Windows Mobile are virtually impossible to carry out consistently by Microsoft because there are currently over 50 handset makers, over 150 different Windows Mobile phones, 160 mobile operators, and over 20 million Windows Mobile smartphone licenses. Most phones are optimized and customized for specific hardware features (QWERTY keyboard, unique hardware button configuration, and more), customized for carriers, or customized by manufacturers (TouchFLO 3D for example). You cannot roll out an update with this much variation and choice in the Windows Mobile market.

Microsoft has a utility on many Windows Mobile phones called Windows Mobile Update and this was originally designed for possible security updates only and not for firmware/OS updates. This update utility just confuses the issue and needs to be removed from all devices to avoid an implied upgradeability function on the device.

I know we all want the latest and greatest software on our mobile phones, but if you choose Windows Mobile then you are going to have to trade-off having a huge selection of devices that meet the needs of people across the spectrum and prices across the board versus having a more limited standardized selection of devices. With devices like that already in the market (iPhone and BlackBerry), I personally think Microsoft and Windows Mobile should stick with the current setup. Michael Gartenberg just posted that Microsoft will not make their own mobile phone and why they shouldn't and I agree with him.

So giving up the hope that Microsoft will brand and control their own device, what can they do regarding the user experience and upgrade/update process? While carrier partnerships are important, I think Microsoft and/or the manufacturers need to start pushing back against carriers when they want to load up the devices with bloatware and kill the end user experience. I recently purchased the AT&T Fuze (see my first impressions) and cannot believe how much crapware AT&T was allowed to load up on the device. I understand carriers want to promote their monthly fee services and I can understand having some of those utilities/shortcuts on the device. However, including 10 game demos that have nothing to do with the carrier and also not allowing the user to remove content they do not want to subscribe to just kills the experience and in the end leaves the buyer with a bad impression of Windows Mobile. Luckily, there are custom ROMs that give the device back to the buyer. These are not for the masses though and the carriers need to be reigned in a bit if Microsoft wants people to be impressed by Windows Mobile devices.

As far as upgrading or updating Windows Mobile devices, I think Microsoft needs to see if they can roll out a consistent base part of the operating system that can be upgraded over the air (OTA) without affecting carrier and manufacturer customizations. Nokia now has these kind of incremental updates on some Nseries devices (I tried this and it worked well on the Nokia N78). I think this will be a bit easier as Microsoft melds the touch and non-touch operating systems into one. Other than that, given the scale of Windows Mobile I don't know if there is much else that can be done while still having such a broad choice for the end consumer.

The MyTodayScreen article I linked to above discussed the available web browser alternatives for Windows Mobile so IMHO there really is little need to upgrade your existing device to a new device just to get the latest Microsoft web browser. The third party clients offer just about everything you could want and I have even been able to watch Hulu videos on my Palm Treo Pro with Skyfire.

All of this said, I still prefer to use my Windows Mobile device most of the time for the excellent Exchange support out of the box and the incredible third party application availability and support that lets you completely personalize and optimize each device for your maximum usage and enjoyment. Windows Mobile devices today are stable, they have removable batteries, they have a high level of security, they can be found for cheap prices, and they are very powerful.

I am heading to the Mobius event in a couple of weeks and will get a chance to talk directly with representatives from the Windows Mobile team at Microsoft. I plan to ask specifically about the Internet Explorer Mobile 6 issue and will share what I can with you in my blog posts. If you have any other specific questions/concerns/issue you would like me to raise, please post them in the comments here and I'll try to get you some answers.

[poll id=3]

Topics: Hardware, Browser, Microsoft, Mobile OS, Mobility, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

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14 comments
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  • Does anyone care about IE Mobile 6?

    Seriously, does it really matter that much? With the plethora of fantastic browsers available today on the WM platform (most of which crush Safari in every way imaginable), I say that PocketIE is irrelevant. Microsoft's pride won't let them give up and simply license Opera (which is probably what they should do) but the thought of not being able to update an application I never use simply doesn't bother me in the least.

    Windows Mobile is doing fantastically well right now with incredible growth and a feature list that has iPhone users drooling (funny how everything they want has been available for years on WM). WM's only [b]real[/b] competition is from Android since that is the only other manufacturer independent platform. Considering the incredibly innovative WM phones and UIs coming from companies like HTC, Sony, and Samsung, I'm glad that we have companies like Google and MS who encourage innovation instead of companies like Apple who quash it when 3rd party innovation dares threaten one of their applications.
    NonZealot
    • Agree completely with you

      I agree that IE Mobile is really irrelevant and personally use and prefer Opera Mobile and Skyfire.

      I was also trying to show how complex the upgrade issue is with Microsoft due to all of the choices we have (and want) since people seem to think upgrading Windows Mobile is something that is easy to do and many get upset when they can't as easily as other devices.

      I prefer to have it the way it is and give me TONS of choices for hardware since you can find something that works for you, no matter what your needs are.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
    • Clearly you do

      Otherwise why the rant against Apple? Your zeal knows no bounds.

      "[i]Windows Mobile is doing fantastically well right now with incredible growth{/i]"

      Yeah, right. That's why WM is in fourth place behind Nokia, RIM and iPhone. iPhone's share of the "converged device" market is larger than all WM phones combined[1].

      [i]"WM's only real competition is from Android since that is the only other manufacturer independent platform."[/i]

      So you'll measure WM sucess against Android and ignore the rest? Might work for you, but I'm not sure such analysis would be taken seriously by anyone else. It also ignores Java and Symbian as platforms. The 100 millionth device running Symbian was shipped in November 2006 and as of Q3 2008 had 40% marketshare[2]. WM has a bit of catching up to do.

      Also, if you look at mobile browsers, within 5 months of the launch of iPhone, it had a 50% greater share of mobile browsers than [b]all Windows mobile device combined[/b][3].

      [i]"Google and MS who encourage innovation instead of companies like Apple who quash it when 3rd party innovation dares threaten one of their applications"[/i]

      Really? What particular "3rd party innovation" has Apple quashed? And what threat did it pose? You might notice that Mathew Miller said:

      [i]"I think Microsoft and/or the manufacturers need to start pushing back against carriers when they want to load up the devices with bloatware and kill the end user experience."[/i]

      In other words, he wishes MS and OEMs would have [b]more control[/b] over their platforms to prevent meddling. Maybe Apple goes too far in one direction, but clearly MS and mobile phone OEMs are too far in the other.

      You are free to choose which model you wish to support, but don't let your zeal get in the way of balanced argument.

      The bottom line here is that mobile browsing is becoming a significant method of access to the web. If MS chooses to limp along with the worst mobile browser (kinda goes with it having the worst desktop browser) then it can expect users to desert its platform - browsers like Opera are available on just about everything that connects to the web.

      1. <URL: http://blogs.zdnet.com/microsoft/?p=1163 >

      2. <URL: http://stats.getjar.com/statistics/world/platform_symbian >

      3. <URL: http://blogs.computerworld.com/iphone_browsing_marketshare_closes_in_on_1 >
      Fred Fredrickson
    • Clearly you do (fixed itallics)

      Otherwise why the rant against Apple? Your zeal knows no bounds.

      "[i]Windows Mobile is doing fantastically well right now with incredible growth[/i]"

      Yeah, right. That's why WM is in fourth place behind Nokia, RIM and iPhone. iPhone's share of the "converged device" market is larger than all WM phones combined[1].

      [i]"WM's only real competition is from Android since that is the only other manufacturer independent platform."[/i]

      So you'll measure WM sucess against Android and ignore the rest? Might work for you, but I'm not sure such analysis would be taken seriously by anyone else. It also ignores Java and Symbian as platforms. The 100 millionth device running Symbian was shipped in November 2006 and as of Q3 2008 had 40% marketshare[2]. WM has a bit of catching up to do.

      Also, if you look at mobile browsers, within 5 months of the launch of iPhone, it had a 50% greater share of mobile browsers than [b]all Windows mobile device combined[/b][3].

      [i]"Google and MS who encourage innovation instead of companies like Apple who quash it when 3rd party innovation dares threaten one of their applications"[/i]

      Really? What particular "3rd party innovation" has Apple quashed? And what threat did it pose? You might notice that Mathew Miller said:

      [i]"I think Microsoft and/or the manufacturers need to start pushing back against carriers when they want to load up the devices with bloatware and kill the end user experience."[/i]

      In other words, he wishes MS and OEMs would have [b]more control[/b] over their platforms to prevent meddling. Maybe Apple goes too far in one direction, but clearly MS and mobile phone OEMs are too far in the other.

      You are free to choose which model you wish to support, but don't let your zeal get in the way of balanced argument.

      The bottom line here is that mobile browsing is becoming a significant method of access to the web. If MS chooses to limp along with the worst mobile browser (kinda goes with it having the worst desktop browser) then it can expect users to desert its platform - browsers like Opera are available on just about everything that connects to the web.

      1. <URL: http://blogs.zdnet.com/microsoft/?p=1163 >

      2. <URL: http://stats.getjar.com/statistics/world/platform_symbian >

      3. <URL: http://blogs.computerworld.com/iphone_browsing_marketshare_closes_in_on_1 >
      Fred Fredrickson
      • Your stats are all US based

        Apple has always had a legion of US fans who will buy almost anything that Apple releases. Microsoft is far ahead of Apple when global sales are taken into consideration. In fact, [b]all[/b] Apple stats fall to miniscule levels when worldwide markets are taken into consideration. OS X has something like 7% marketshare in the US but only 3% marketshare in the world. Even in your stats, iPhone had 27% marketshare in the US and didn't even make the list in the world. In Q3 of 2008, Apple had good sales because the iPhone 3G was just released but when averaged out with Q2 2008 (where Apple sold somewhere between 300,000-800,000 iPhones, an absolutely pathetic number), it shows that Q3 2008 probably just fulfilled some of the pent up demand from Q2 that inevitably occurs whenever a company announces an upcoming product. Annual world wide sales of the iPhone still fall [b]far[/b] short of WM.

        As far as browsing marketshare, those stats are skewed for 2 reasons:
        1. The original iPhone used the web as its API so a big "duh" that people would access the web more often from the iPhone! There was no other way to extend the use of the device!!

        2. The stats you quoted ignore WAP sites and therefore are a horrible measure of mobile device Internet usage.

        [i]Really? What particular "3rd party innovation" has Apple quashed?[/i]

        Are you kidding me? Seriously? What exactly do you call banning things like OTA podcast syncing applications, browsers, media players, any type of application that uses scripting, etc.? Even worse is that Apple will let you release an application to the App Store and then, later, decide that they are going to write their own version [b]and then ban your application!!![/b] If Microsoft ever tried to do something like that, you'd be the first to cry foul. Instead, you apologize.

        [i]The bottom line here is that mobile browsing is becoming a significant method of access to the web. If MS chooses to limp along with the worst mobile browser (kinda goes with it having the worst desktop browser) then it can expect users to desert its platform - browsers like Opera are available on just about everything that connects to the web.[/i]

        I'm glad you mentioned "just about" because which device is the [b]only[/b] device that has banned Opera? iPhone. :)

        Now, if you actually read my post, I said something very similar. However, people aren't abandoning the WM platform considering sales are WAY up and WM is capturing mobile marketshare at a rate higher than OS X is capturing OS marketshare. What [b]is[/b] happening is that IE is being abandoned. My HTC Touch Diamond came with Opera as the default browser and what a fantastic browser it is (it beats Safari in every way imaginable). I clearly stated I felt MS should abandon the browser and simply license something like Opera.

        [i]don't let your zeal get in the way of balanced argument.[/i]

        Ditto.
        NonZealot
        • You are still wrong

          [i]"In fact, all Apple stats fall to miniscule levels when worldwide markets are taken into consideration."[/i]

          iPhone is #2 on global sales, how is that "miniscule"?

          <URL: http://www.crn.com.au/News/88574,iphone-sales-give-apple-2nd-place-in-global-market.aspx >

          In regard to innovation, preventing certain applications on iPhone is irrelevant. If, according to you, iPhone has such a tiny marketshare, how does stopping the release of a competing browser stiffle innovation? Especially when Opera is available on a plethora of other devices? Shouldn't you be hoping that not having Opera stalls the growth of iPhone sales and drives Apple out of the mobile market?

          Lastly, you didn't provide a single statistic to back up your assertions regarding WM's marketshare.
          Fred Fredrickson
  • NO SOUP FOR YOU!!!

    Most Windows Mobile Browsers is now the Opera mobile 9.1. Sorry Microsoft, but soon Fennec will be the #1 downloaded piece of software in the future for all Windows Mobile phones, once the Mozilla browser is out of Alpha.
    Maarek
    • Mozilla's building a

      helicopter? ;)
      John Zern
  • Why is it difficult to release IE6

    Sorry I am slightly lost here. For some reason it is difficult for Microsoft to update its browser application for Windows Mobile devices yet for some reason Opera is able to do it.

    It seems as though MS has allocated the least able of its staff to mobile for years.
    martin23
    • History and stubbornness

      Not that long ago, MS said that he browser was an inseperable part of the OS, repeatedly, doggedly, in a US Fedral court. Splitting IE from the OS would be an admission not only that it is a bad design decision, but that the whole "IE is part of the OS" line was purely a tactical ploy to defend bundling IE with the OS.
      Fred Fredrickson
  • custom ROMs

    I recently purchased the Samsung Epix on AT&T and love the phone but I also noticed the crapware that I am not allowed to uninstall. Where can I get the custom ROMS you mentioned?
    reverseswing
  • RE: No IE Mobile 6 for you; what can Microsoft do about Windows Mobile?

    What is wrong with MS? Do they have just a couple of people that do part time work on WM? MS has had tons of tech available to compete yet WM seems like the last to get it. Personally I'd rather have a UMPC but it seems to be a dead market.
    relwolf
  • OS Platform Good - Standard UI Horrible

    I also own a Treo Pro and love it. Touch screen + qwerty keyboard makes for a great combination. That said, Microsoft and Palm should be ashamed of themselves for releasing such a dated, unfriendly UI. I previously used a TMO Dash and installed the XDA Developer's Windows Mobile 6.1 with the HTC slider UI and it was great. Then I get the Treo Pro with the same lousy Today home screen from years ago. From a review, I found SPB Mobile Shell from SPB Software (http://www.spbsoftwarehouse.com/products/mobileshell/?en) and it provides an amazing total UI replacement. You spend so much time interacting with the UI. It's a huge aspect of the device, but seems to be ignored by MS and Palm. Most end-users aren't savvy enough to install a UI upgrade on their own, they will look at the device and say, "this sucks", and buy something else. MS should hire SPB or XDA Developers as consultants for the next OS revision if they wish to really compete with Apple, Google, and RIM.

    Browser? IE on WM is worthless. Opera makes browsing usable. Another reason a typical user would not buy a Windows device. It's a shame because the hardware and core OS is great.
    lvjoe
  • RE: No IE Mobile 6 for you; what can Microsoft do about Windows Mobile?

    I use a HTC 8525 running Win Mobile. the unresponsiveness of the OS results in my being able to actually answer less that 50% of incoming calls -- calls roll over to messaging before the OS can respond. I'm actively looking for a new OS because Microsoft just isn't up to the challenge in the 1st place. Compared to this, their inability (unwillingness) to support current customers pales.
    michaelcamp