Microsoft's mobile strategy has gone missing

Microsoft's mobile strategy has gone missing

Summary: Enterprise mobile technology advances on all fronts, except one. Microsoft needs to make its strategy plain

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TOPICS: Mobility
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It had to happen. Virtualisation has come to mobiles, with both VMware and Parallels announcing moves into the pockets and purses of business IT.

In both cases, there's a degree of hype mixed in with the hoopla: why anyone would want to run multiple operating systems on a mobile phone is something only their psychoanalysts could answer.

Even the undoubted benefits may not be as new as advertised: VMware has said its Mobile Virtualization Platform will bring added security and cross-platform deployment benefits, claims that were made for Java at its launch. Nonetheless, more security, manageability and flexibility are always welcome and, if VMware makes good on these promises, it'll be a worthwhile endeavour.

This is particularly true as the boundaries between phones and computers continue to erode, and enterprise strategies grow to embrace the possibilities created by new, fast, global wireless networks and increasingly capable, portable hardware.

Against this background, Microsoft's continued tardiness in developing its own mobile strategy gets more worrying. At the company's Professional Developers Conference recently, Windows Mobile was notable by its absence — and not for the first time. No clear guidance has been given for the next major revision of the software, and the trends are not good. It is now commonplace for flagship Windows Mobile handsets to come with a non-Microsoft web browser — a sign that something is badly broken.

It is hard to avoid the sense that Microsoft may be giving up this fight, especially given the difficulties involved in extending Windows Mobile into netbooks and other, larger devices — a battleground where Microsoft's lack of direction is particularly noticeable.

There is a lot the company could do. It could extend its own virtualisation efforts into mobiles. It could develop MinWin — the stripped-down kernel at the heart of Vista and Windows 7 — into the core of a brand-new approach. It could include Windows Mobile in its enterprise strategy as something more than a half-hearted Exchange client. It could give us some hint — no matter how vague — about what operating system it sees running on netbooks in two years' time.

In the absence of any of the above, and with the rest of the industry not shy about announcing new initiatives, roadmaps and strategies, we have to give some credence to the continued rumours from within Microsoft that the company has been unable to find and follow a coherent path for portable platform development.

Please, Microsoft, prove us wrong.

Topic: Mobility

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