What derailed the Windows Mobile 7 train?

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.

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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 has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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72 comments
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  • RE: What derailed the Windows Mobile 7 train?

    I thing (and hope) that they will come out with WM7 at this year's PDC.
    Jan Kratochvil
    • MS is missing another train

      Looks like MS will miss the mobile smartphone boom just like it missed the internet. All MS can do is copy ideas from others... They have been in the mobile OS business for ten years and had ample opportunity to develop something special. Instead, their mobile OS is like a slow desktop, without a shread of originality.

      It took Apple iPhone to show the way.
      prof123
      • i agree

        Right on - if you watch the video of Jobs introducing the iPhone, and look at the state of the art then compared to now, and how much the others have copied iPhone, it's pretty obvious who is driving the train now.
        Monkeypox
      • That is not an accident

        [i]Instead, their mobile OS is like a slow desktop, without a shread of originality.[/i]

        That's because MSFT looked down their nose at the mobile phone and netbook markets and didn't see massive profit margins. Internally they pooped all over any suggestion those devices would ever eat into the desktop market, ignoring the appliance trend already making inroads in Japan.

        So no surprise MS has no cohesive mobile strategy and are still fielding XP for the netbook market. Windows 7 runs on netbooks, but it doesn't excel. WM 7 is rebranded Windows Mobile, the laughing stock of the mobile OS market.

        Sell your MSFT stock. The more this trend accelerates, the more ground Windows is going to lose.

        Chad_z
        • So it would not be the hungry competitors....

          that brought the Windows hegemony to an end, but the change of
          technology.

          Microsoft has never been about inovation, but quite the opposite,
          they've given it a big effort to resist change to protect their lucrative
          desktop monopoly. This change is unavoidable though, MS will lose.
          Mikael_z
    • no business model

      there is no money to be made in mobile os software. microsoft had
      windows mobile on approximately 4 million devices last qaurter. if you
      assume that they get a license fee of $10-15 pro device that makes
      them 40-60 million in revenue per quarter.

      RIMM and apple on the other hand made BILLIONS per quarter on their
      phone bsuiness selling hardware. even if microsoft had their software
      on 10 times the devices it would still be a tiny sum compared to apple
      and rimm.

      the question is why bother if you know you will only have a small
      revenue and a tiny or no profit at all going forward (os development is
      very exepensive). there is a lot of reasoning to assume that microsoft
      will cease the mobile software business and go the hardware route
      with its own phone like they did in the music markt with abandoning
      their "plays for sure" licensing model and bringing out the zune.
      windows mobile is probably already dead internally. let's see what a
      microsoft phone (project pink?) can do and will look like.
      bannedfromzdnetagain
  • One has to wonder

    whether Microsoft even knows how to deal with a competitive environment anymore. One also has to wonder how long the Teflon coating will last on its CEO, because while MS will not be declaring bankruptcy any time soon, you cannot seriously argue that this CEO has maximized his company's potential and profits over the last 10 years.
    Michael Kelly
    • It is just so hard for MS to be competitive here when they have to do 100%

      of the OS development themselves, and are forced to create lock-in to the Windows desktop and Office platforms. Finally, the best and brightest do not want to work for the loser where they are not free to be creative.
      DonnieBoy
      • Which explains why many top employees.

        Have left Google for more creative endevours.
        That is who you are talking about, correct?

        Look at those that have gone back to Microsoft from Google, look at those that have left Google for greener pastures, even Apple is losing many to Palm

        [i]Finally, the best and brightest do not want to work for the loser where they are not free to be creative.[/i]

        I imagine that would explain Google's losses over the part 12 months.
        GuidingLight
        • Actually, engineers do not like to admit that they work at MS, as usually

          there is a lot of uncontrolled laughter when they are exposed.

          Working at Google on the other hand is cool.
          DonnieBoy
          • Say what?

            The MS employees I know are proud to be a part of Microsoft. Both companies offer great products and the Engineers that commited to them should be proud!
            Rob.sharp
          • Are you sure, Donnie?

            [i]Working at Google on the other hand is cool.[/i]

            There was a story about a year of so ago about so many employees leaving Google, they actually launched a group to try to find out why. At the url below are stories from people who left Google. (Not very flattering.)


            http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/01/18/why-google-employees-quit/
            mgp3
          • There are a lot of different personalities out there, and, not all are made

            for the Google lifestyle. But, one thing about the best and the brightest is that they like to move around, and, you will see that where you have the highest levels of innovation in the Silicon Valley, you also have the highest turnover rates. The mixing of ideas is great for overall innovation.
            DonnieBoy
          • I agree. Google seems a more ethical company, through and through

            Ironic as they want to control public data (eep), but unlike Microsoft I'd trust Google's servers not to corrupt it.
            HypnoToad72
          • used to be

            I use google search countless times a day, and love it. I've used other google programs, some good and some bad, for years.

            However, like apple, google is positioned like a 'god' in the IT industry - they can do no wrong. Some of the practices emminating from both of these organisations borders on illegal, and certainly isn't ehtical. However, due to this status amongst many, (and some clever marketing on behalf of Apple), people choose to ignore it.

            It's easier to bash Microsoft, and people will generally support you for the reasons above, however take a real look under the hood, and what you find may shock you.

            Apple stifles feedback / alternate opinions (even from their clients - deleting negative comments on forums is NOT on), google lacks effective management to a large degree, and Microsoft stifles innovation and creativity.

            I'd be proud to work for all three, but only due to the size of the pay cheque.
            stewymelb
          • Why?

            [i]Ironic as they want to control public data (eep), but unlike Microsoft I'd trust Google's servers not to corrupt it.[/i]

            Care to elaborate?
            Wintel BSOD
          • Of all the comments I've read on here...

            ... this is the most absurd comment I've read.
            I've never, in 20 something years of dealing with
            MS, ever known anyone who wouldn't admit they
            worked for MS. Is everyone 100% proud/happy? No,
            I'm sure not. But ashamed or embarrassed to admit
            they work there - that's a stupid comment.
            RGC6789
          • Agreed... last I checked they were still one of the best employers...

            in regards to how they treat their employees too.

            Not saying they are perfect but I'd happily work for them (if they'd take me!).
            SamCPP
    • Ummmm....

      "One has to wonder whether Microsoft even knows how to deal with a competitive environment anymore."

      Anymore? Since when have they ever?
      Dave32265
      • Well

        For one, MS Office was not always the champ of office suites (or the individual apps). But it mastered the Windows/Apple GUI faster than the competition, plus it mastered the "suite" concept faster than anyone else.
        Michael Kelly