It's a tragedy of a type. Windows Mobile should have been something. It should have been a contender. Instead of a bum operating system, which is what it is, let's face it.
What happened? Who told Windows Mobile, at the crucial time, this wasn't its night?
Probably the same force that drove Rod Steiger's Charley, short-term gain. Microsoft held Windows Mobile as proprietary even after the iPhone passed it by. There was no process for making it open source.
The fate of Windows Mobile, and other projects that get passed by, may have driven Microsoft's aggressive moves with Codeplex over the last years. Codeplex lets Windows-related code be reborn as open source projects. It turns mine into ours. The Codeplex Foundation is separate from Microsoft.
Had Codeplex existed in its current form in the months after the iPhone came out, Microsoft would have had a place to organize carriers around shared code in an effort to catch up. Many corporations could have benefited, because they could have tied their Windows infrastructure directly into the mobile world.
But like most of Apple's rivals, Microsoft had a "not invented here" syndrome back then. It was afraid to share what it had fearing it would lose advantages that, frankly, were not there. And it didn't want to accept anything other companies might also use.
With mobile Microsoft let itself be locked into a 20th century mindset. It thought the market was a mano a mano battle between its engineers and Apple's. It wasn't. It was an unfair fight between a crowd of talented people and a driven entrepreneur. The battle recapitulated what Microsoft did to IBM 20 years earlier, only with Gates in the Jobs role.
At some point Windows Mobile should have become an open source project, organized outside of Microsoft, supported by both a corporate and organizational ecosystem. Google has beaten it to that role.
But is it really too late? If Windows Mobile became a Codeplex project, could it be a contender again? Or is it destined for Palookaville.