Microsoft seeks to regain lost ground in mobile

Microsoft seeks to regain lost ground in mobile

Summary: Microsoft has made some stumbles in the mobile world, but a strategy shift made more than a year ago will soon pay dividends, says the company's top Winddows Mobile exec, Andy Lees.

Microsoft has made some stumbles in the mobile world, but a strategy shift made more than a year ago will soon pay dividends, the company's top Windows Mobile executive said in an interview with CNET News.

Andy Lees, the executive brought over from the server unit a year ago, said that Microsoft's efforts to make sure that its mobile software could run on a wide range of phones resulted in an operating system that failed to take advantage of advances in hardware.

"We aimed to go for a lower common denominator," Lees said. Microsoft was also limited by the origins of Windows Mobile, which was developed to power handheld computers that neither connected to a network nor handled voice.

"We started out when we were in PDAs (personal digital assistants) and then a phone got strapped to the back of the PDA," Lees said. The company also failed to recognize that phones--even those that were used for business--were still as much personal as they were professional.

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Meanwhile, Apple and Google have joined the fray with operating systems designed from the ground up to take advantage of the latest in phone technology.

But Lees said that Microsoft embarked on a new strategy some time ago that will come to fruition over the next 18 months. The first steps in that strategy, he said, will be announced at the Mobile World Congress conference that takes place in Barcelona in the middle of next month.

"You are going to see a bunch of announcements at Mobile World Congress but also it is going to be the beginning of a 12-, 18-month period where you are going to see a whole bunch of different stuff," Lees said.

Part of Microsoft's new strategy, Lees said, is not relying on operating system upgrades to improve its products. The new approach, while still making money by selling a mobile operating system, places considerable focus on services that help connect the phone to the PC and Web as well as devices such as the Xbox.

Microsoft has two separate teams at work on the services piece. One is Microsoft's Windows Live group, while the other is a rather secretive group headed by former Mac unit head Roz Ho--a group that also includes the team Microsoft acquired when it bought Danger. Lees declined to say specifically what Ho is up to, however.

But Lees acknowledged the company also needs to improve that core operating system, which is widely seen as lagging that of most of its rivals.

For some time now, Microsoft has been working on a significant overhaul of its operating system, known as Windows Mobile 7. However, that project has hit delays, prompting Microsoft to push forward with an interim update, Windows Mobile 6.5, which the company is widely expected to detail next month. Lees declined to comment specifically on either version of the operating system, but promised the company would have more to say on the OS front in Barcelona.

Lees also promised that Microsoft would start working more closely with hardware makers. He pointed to deals late last year with LG and Samsung.

He noted that the power of the kinds of phones that come out next year will be incredible, well beyond even today's devices. Phones next year will have dual-core processors, super-fast data connections, and graphics power rivaling that of the original Xbox.

"That's a phenomenal thing on a phone," he said. The phones of the future will also have location information beyond just GPS sensors. "It will know where it is pointing, it will know which angle it is being held at."

Web browsing has been another weak spot for Microsoft. The company made up some ground late last year with a pocket browser that essentially crams the desktop Internet Explorer 6 into a Windows Mobile phone. But it lacks the kind of easy zooming and gesture recognition present on the iPhone or in Palm's Pre. Lees promised that Microsoft would surpass those interfaces by the end of the year.

Lees would not confirm details of a rumored rival to Apple's App Store, reportedly known as SkyMarket.

"There is some question whether we can more directly connect the developer and the end user," he said. "We're looking at that."

Apple dismissed the notion that Microsoft and others are catching up to the iPhone, however.

On a conference call with analysts last week, Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer dismissed the growing competition from rivals saying Apple remained "years ahead" in the phone business.

"Our competitors are scrambling to try and copy our success," he said.

Credit: Microsoft aiming to recover lost ground in mobile from CNET

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

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  • i'm so confused... NonZealot (the MS Zealot) & Matthew Miller say...

    that winMobile is great the way it is,is feature
    packed and rivals every other mobileOS on the
    planet and selling like hot cakes.. what is this
    Microsoft guy talking about? why fix it if it aint
    broke? <thick layer of sarcasm>

    12-18 months are these guys smoking crack? how
    long has WinMobile 7 been in the works? man... MS
    is a few steps from a big fall.. Win7 better sell
    REALLY well because man.. they are just f'n up at
    every turn... they're alseep at the wheel..
    18months??? LMAO!!
  • Typical Microsoft

    Our NEXT version will have everything you want right now.
    • More like

      Our NEXT version will fix everything that's broken now.
  • 12 - 18 Months?

    Is MS rewriting Windows Mobile from scratch? The longer it takes for Win Mobile 7 to be released, the more market share and credibility MS will lose - unless it starts advertising like RIM.
    P. Douglas
  • The whole gadget market is in trouble

    I simply don't think a lot of people still have the wallet for smart phones, game consoles, music players and so on. Whatever effort by M$ or anyone won't matter during this significant down turn.
  • Mobile adding value at the periphery

    Difficult to see how mobile apps wont make an impact given its one of the few places its possible to add real value these days, the back office being so clogged up with nonsense supporting financial systems that have moved little in the last 100 years.
  • RE: Microsoft seeks to regain lost ground in mobile

    The Eye phone is eye candy. They lock you in and you are locked in. You don't have a huge repository of opensource or free apps that can be downloaded on the Iphone. You don't have a way for corporate rollouts on the Iphone. You do with Win Mobile. Hell with Win Mobile you can even terminal session into various PC's and Servers in your enterprise and actually do some system administration you can't do that with the IPHONE. OK so WinM does not have the sexyness that IPHONE has but it works, it just works well. WinM also has a really proven kernal that's actually pretty small and it's the same kernal that XP, Vista, Win7, 2003 and 2007 etc have. It just works and with the Windows Mobile you can download and run all the apps you can fine to your hearts delight.

    Things I would like to see: Maybe more touchscreen stuff. Also the ability to landscape your browser would be nice, I hate browsing in the page mode (up and down) hard to see all the stuff on a web page. Larger screens would be nice but hey don't get rid of the keyboard it so much easier to type then to finger aound on a touchscreen. Maybe a fold out keyboard. But MS does not design the actual hardware that's left to the developers. The cost of Mobile stuff is really cheaper than the IPHONE, I see MS could come out with a few tweeks here and there and people would be saying, WOW, Windows Media is cool
    • Hmm perhaps you should check your facts

      [pre]WinM also has a really proven kernal that's actually pretty small and it's the same kernal that XP, Vista, Win7, 2003 and 2007 etc have.[/pre]

      Windows Mobile being based on Windows CE has very little to do with the NT kernel found in Windows XP etc.

      Sure they share similiar style user mode APIs, but at the kernel level I think you'll find they share very little in common at all.

      That statement alone points out how little technical detail you actually know about the platform.
  • RE: Microsoft seeks to regain lost ground in mobile

    Aside from the totally unstable WM 6X release out now, the biggest problem with msoft is that they consistently leave you behind in a year or less.

    Today, the Original iPhone investment is as good as ever cause the OS updates are still coming with the new 3g model.

    By a WM phone, you may be lucky to get 1 bugfix update before its obsolete - not supported - what a bunch of crap.

  • RE: Microsoft seeks to regain lost ground in mobile

    Well if there working on something now that we will see in about 18 months man are they going to look like a joke "again".
    By then every one else is going to have released probably 2 major improvements/upgrades by then, and we see from past experience from MS that their mobile product barely suffices when released so they are going to 18 months behind when they release and you know the rest of that story. Same as vista 18 -24 months or so behind now we will get it re-branded as windows 7 "vista debugged".
    You can take that to the bank.
  • RE: Microsoft seeks to regain lost ground in mobile

    Now it is up to Palm and Apple to keep innovating and
    improving their devices (comon Apple, copy and paste
    already) and improve mail/calendar/contact connectivity.

    The Windows Mobile killer app for corporates is likely to be
    Unified Comms. This is the only thing sill unavailable on
    any other platform and MS are not liekly to give away this
    tech to other clients (you have to be using Windows to get
    full voice and video, as they have not released their client
    for any other OS, and broke form the original MSN client
    spec so no other MSN compatible client works).

    However for me the breakdown is Blackberry is currently
    the best Email/Calander/contact PIM, iPhone is the best
    personal media device and happens to also do mail and
    calander. Everyone else is busy trying to emeulate the
    features on these two phones.

  • RE: Microsoft seeks to regain lost ground in mobile

    they need to stop trying to compete with the iphone. doing that will keep us constantly behind, instead focus on coming out with somethin better that surpasses the iphone. look at all the things they (apple) left out, screwed up, or just plain ignored. while doing that, they should also focus on improving the strongpoints of winmobile. as far as im concerned, they need to sign a contract with HTC and work with them to improve hardware alongside the software. HTC handsets are the best hands down....hell, even google picked them to debute their first handheld, even thought they picked the cheapest handheld HTC offers!