Should Microsoft Abandon Phones?

By  |  Friday, December 11, 2009 at 8:10 am

Over at the New York Times’ Bits blog, Steve Lohr is reporting on a shocking recommendation from tech analyst/writer Mark Anderson: Microsoft should abandon the phone business. Anderson says that Microsoft doesn’t get consumers–with the exception of game-playing consumers–and it’s time for the company to focus on business customers.

As Lohr says, the chances that Microsoft will give Windows Mobile a respectful burial and move on are slim. Very, very slim. If I were Steve Ballmer, I sure wouldn’t: Even if the company’s phone strategy is in crummy shape, some chance of getting back on track is better than no chance. Phones are the future of personal computing: To exit the business would be the equivalent of Warner Bros. giving up on TV in 1950, or the New York Times shuttering its Web site in 1998 or so.

So I’m not advocating for Microsoft to give up–and in fact would be happy to see Windows Mobile 7 turn out to be something worth getting excited over.

What say you?


Read more: , ,

11 Comments For This Post

  1. Vulpine Says:

    I’ll tell you that I voted “No… future of technology,” but I will add a caveat. Windows Mobile, as it sits, is pitiful. Yes, it used to be the strongest, most fully-capable mobile OS out there, but it was never user-friendly or easy to use. It’s sole purpose was to provide a Windows-style desktop functionality to a portable device. It really worked best in PDA and enterprise-specific functions including certain medical and point-of-sale devices. However, RIM and Apple have combined to effectively eliminate Windows Mobile as a viable OS for portable devices.

    This by no means should imply that Microsoft needs to abandon the platform. Rather, Microsoft needs to re-imagine the concept and come up with something that is touch-easy to use across the board. Improve the simplicity and reliability to the point that even a child could use it if necessary, then allow developers to design new software that matches this simplicity.

    As it stands, Microsoft has let the technology stagnate, which is why RIM and Apple have stolen the lead. You simply can’t sit still and expect your product to remain the standard; somebody will always one-up you. RIM pretty well did this to WinMo with the Blackberry; Apple did it to the Blackberry with the iPhone. Combined, the Blackberry and the iPhone have made WinMo irrelevant. We know Microsoft can compete, but they need to jump ahead of the competition if they want to restore their dominant position in portable computing.

  2. Dave Barnes Says:

    Excellent commentary.
    But, Microsoft has proven to be INcapable of doing what want them to do.

    The 2 fastest growing players (with a substantial base–which excludes Android) in the smart phone market are Apple and RIMM. Both have a “control both the hardware and software” strategy. Neither is standing still. How is Microsoft going to beat these guys with Windows Mobile 7?

  3. tom b Says:

    Truth be told, they should abandon OS’s, given that they’ve had plenty of time to get serious; to get their act together, and they failed at each turn.

    I think they should just do Office. I’m not a huge fan of Office– an enormous tub of bloat for what it does, but it’s one of their few profitable divisions, and lots of people use it.

  4. Soldier of Catan Says:

    Microsoft should continue to provide minimal support and updates to windows mobile, and treat Windows Mobile 7 as the end of a branch.

    They should try to bring the XBox brand to phones, and their windows mobile engineers there.

    Meanwhile the mobile focus of the company should be making the PC play better with ANY PHONE.

  5. Bob Van Valzah Says:

    Microsoft hasn’t behaved as though they were serious about phones for years. Yet Harry is absolutely right that phone _are_ the future of personal computing. I’d say they should exit unless they’re willing to get serious. Since as Tom B says above they’ve had plenty of time to get serious and still haven’t, I had to answer the survey with a “Yes, they should exit.”

  6. Kayza Kleinman Says:

    I could make some good arguments for and against MS abandoning the mobile OS. But bebause MS doesn’t get consumers, just business?! What planet does this guy live on? Firstly, I’m not so sure how well MS “gets” business. More importantly, though, smart phones are NOT just consumer devices. Blackberry is a success because of its business orientation. Sure, they have added plenty of consumer features, but at the end of the day, a huge chink of their sales come from businesses, and lots of consumers who buy them do do because they work well for business type functionality.

  7. Edward Dinovo Says:

    I haven’t liked Microsoft’s mobile operating systems’ since Windows CE introduced the Pocket PC interface. The Pocket PC UI was playing with some interesting ideas, but none of them were done quite right. I think Apple refined the concepts Microsoft was grasping at with their iPhone OS.

    Having said that, the Windows CE kernel itself is quite robust and Microsoft has one of the most mature mobile APIs with their .NET Compact Framework. These two factors have made Windows Mobile devices popular in industrial applications such as inventory management.

    I think Office Mobile could be a winner for Microsoft too – but they truly need to revamp that product and keep it up to date with its desktop/cloud counterparts. The current state of affairs is unacceptable.

    Lastly, Microsoft should just bite the bullet and stop trying to make Windows Mobile a multiparadigm user experience and just accept the fact that the OS is supposed to be driven by a stylus. And that’s fine – the stylus supports the much denser presentation of elements which is inherent to the operating system’s design. Microsoft needs to figure out what is valuable to the current users of Windows Mobile and expand in those areas rather than trying to duplicate the designs of their competitors.

  8. IcyFog Says:

    Not only should Microsoft abandon phones, but also software. The world would be a better place if Microsoft no longer existed. Let innovative companies grow and expand, without Microsoft’s stifling attitude toward innovation and creativity. That copycat corporation has been brain dead since its inception.

  9. Frank Says:

    I am one of those who thinks MS should move in another direction. They have the Zune product. They should incorporate the cell phone technology into the Zune player, but WITHOUT WinMo! Let me state that agian, WITHOUT WinMo. They should go the Apple route. Most phone users (not including business) do not want MS Office on their phones. What they want is music, photo’s, application store, games, etc. They should create a simple OS like Apple’s to go with the Zune. I believe then they would be extremely relevant once again.

  10. enculaabnonee Says:

    I need a new one, has anyone got experience of one of these:

  11. WeesClestylig Says:

    Please delete this message….

2 Trackbacks For This Post

  1. Technologizer’s 2009 Predictions: Hey, a Lot of This Stuff Really Did Happen! | Technologizer Says:

    […] Reality? Excitement is in the eye of the beholder, but I don’t think there’s any question that Windows 7 gets high marks from most of the people who’ve tried it. It wasn’t, however, a great year for the company in terms of consumer products. Exhibit A: The ongoing meltdown that is Windows Mobile. […]

  2. Microsoft’s Changing of the Guard Says:

    […] on track with an OS that relatively few things, but does them well. There are those who argue that Microsoft should give up on phones, but I don’t see how Microsoft can be Microsoft in five or ten years unless it has a thriving […]