Windows Mobile 7: A plea to Redmond

Windows Mobile 7: A plea to Redmond

Summary: In just under a month's time, I shall be heading off to Barcelona for Mobile World Congress, much as I do every year.Apart from the pleasure of a visit to the Catalan capital, with the warmer weather that involves, one of the highlights of the trip is always Microsoft's Big Announcement.

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TOPICS: Telcos
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In just under a month's time, I shall be heading off to Barcelona for Mobile World Congress, much as I do every year.

Apart from the pleasure of a visit to the Catalan capital, with the warmer weather that involves, one of the highlights of the trip is always Microsoft's Big Announcement. What will that be this year? If Redmond has its wits about it, it'll be Windows Mobile 7.

What WinMob7 will actually entail is another matter. Most of the rumours circulating around the interwebs... well, actually those are about Apple's magic tablet, but let's pretend for a moment that iSlate-mania doesn't exist... most of the rumours point to a Zune-derived interface, with a complete compatibility break from WinMob's past.

This would be both a great and a rubbish idea. Great, because WinMob is so desperately behind its competitors in the consumer market (no matter how much you prettify it with skins, the underlying OS is a five-year throwback), and rubbish, because the one market where WinMob is currently still vaguely attractive is the enterprise, where apps are an actual investment.

Some of the rumours suggest we're looking at two strands of WinMob7 development: consumer and enterprise. While this makes sense to some degree, for the reasons mentioned above, it makes a pretty confusing picture for anyone looking to maybe try this Windows Phone thing for the first time.

That approach would also be most irksome for developers. If Microsoft abandons legacy compatibility, it's going to have enough of a struggle getting coders to shift their attention from Android, the iPhone and the BlackBerry. Suggesting they may need to address two tines of one Microsofty fork just to stay in that game might be the last straw.

One final issue. Correct me if I'm being a techy snob here, but... does anyone, apart from those who have an investment in legacy WinMob apps, actually care about the platform anymore?

I used to love Windows Mobile because, believe it or not, it used to be the coolest, geekiest platform out there. There's still potential to make people feel that way again... maybe. Possibly.

Come on, Stevie B. Make me care again.

Topic: Telcos

David Meyer

About David Meyer

David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't pay the bills. David's main focus is on communications, as well as internet technologies, regulation and mobile devices.

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  • Windows Mobile 7: A plea to Redmond

    Who uses Windows Mobile?

    There was a widely publicised survey by the CFI Group last September, that said the majority of Windows Mobile users "have no idea what operating system is operating on their phone." This suggests that those people had the phone thrust at them by a salesman, or their corporate IT departments. It was not for the love of Windows Mobile.

    There have been other surveys showing how Windows Mobile is declining in the enterprise. One comes to mind, from InformationWeek, which said that although WinMo has a large installed base in business, it has now fallen to third place (behind Blackberry and iPhone) in new handset sales to enterprise. It's once strong enterprise niche is now abandoning it.

    So you're right, David. The only major sector that still cares about Windows Mobile are those with a vested interest in legacy applications. And they won't want any change to the OS.
    Market Strategist
  • Windows Mobile 7: A plea to Redmond

    That's a really thought provoking and well-rounded comment David thank you. Your enterprise/consumer segment points give much food for thought.

    I thought I had read that Microsoft is more likely to diffuse the version 7 issue and roll out Windows Mobile 6.6 (is that Maldives?) with support for native capacitive sensing touch screens - and then, logically, use its MWC airtime to start jawboning on about what "native capacitive sense" actually is and how it works.

    Either way, have a great time in Catalunya and go easy on the platos combinados bocherones e patatas bravas.

    AdrianB
    Adrian Bridgwater-3dc6b
  • Windows Mobile 7: A plea to Redmond

    "Windows Mobile OS is a 5-year-old throwback". So what? OSX on the iPhone has a much longer heritage as an OS. Is that a bad thing? No. It's a good thing. Why does an OS have to be new? Are you confusing the OS with the UI?

    "most people don't know they're using the Windows Mobile OS". So what? Most people with an iPhone don't know it's running OS-X. Is that a bad thing? Why?

    "if Microsoft breaks compatibility then they're in trouble and if they don't break compatibility they're in trouble". Erm - what's your recommendation then?

    "no-one cares because developers are all off doing Android/iPhone/RIM" - so you're saying that the mobile phone market is one where changes can occur in the space of a 2-3 year period and all that has gone before can be wiped out by a new entrant into the marketplace? Like Microsoft revamping its phone efforts?

    I'm not saying that Windows Mobile will/won't change the world.

    What I would say is that any company that sees Microsoft heading full-charge into their marketplace should keep a close look over their shoulder as Microsoft works best when it's trying to displace an existing incumbent in a market.
    anonymous
  • Windows Mobile 7: A plea to Redmond

    @bobdowne:

    Hmm - fair point on the UI/OS issue. What I meant to say was that the old UI gets too easily exposed in the current version of WinMob.

    Regarding recommendations - well, hard to say. Microsoft is in a very difficult position, which is partly the result of not keeping up over the years (see RIM for an example of how to accomplish this more successfully). Basically, they are in trouble either way. A friend of mine pointed out to me yesterday that a clean break with the past would be the best option. I agree to some extent, but that would certainly anger a lot of people, particularly in the enterprise.

    However, I'm not sure that Microsoft can revamp its efforts to a degree that would make it equivalent to a hot new entrant. It would be nice if Redmond did so, though.

    Regarding incumbents, well, in the enterprise, Microsoft is the incumbent, not the upstart.

    @Adrian:

    Also heard rumours suggesting this year's update will be incremental. That is very much possible. It would be a massive mistake, though - Microsoft's shareholders can't be enjoying seeing the company's mobile share slipping, while RIM's share increases and Google nips at Redmond's heels...

    PS - Another thought: Symbian. Keep an eye on this one. I saw a recent opinion piece calling Symbian a failure and, while it sure isn't sexy right now, it's easily the world's leading smartphone platform, which does not a failure make. Nokia et al are not stupid and, as <a href="http://news.zdnet.co.uk/communications/0,1000000085,40002142,00.htm" title="Images: A quick spin through Nokia's free Ovi sat-nav">as yesterday's Ovi Maps news demonstrates</a>, there are plenty of reasons to anticipate a coolness revival from that sector...
    David Meyer