Tag Archives | Microsoft Windows Mobile

Windows Phone 7 Series: Microsoft Starts Over

It doesn’t look or work like Windows Mobile 6.5. It’s not an iPhone OS knockoff. Instead, Windows Phone 7 Series, which Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer unveiled today at Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress show, looks more like the Zune HD than anything else. And it looks…exciting.

For the first time I can remember, Microsoft is scrapping a major platform and starting from scratch. Windows Phone 7 Series–yes, the name includes a completely superfluous “Series”–isn’t compatible with Windows Mobile. And while Microsoft has always pitched the sheer variety of Windows Mobile phone designs as a primary advantage, Windows Phone 7 devices, which are supposed to show up for the holidays, will apparently be more similar to each other than different. (Microsoft is specifying one CPU, screen resolution, and set of buttons, for instance.)

The 7 interface involves titles that dynamically update themselves with new information, Zune HD-like menus with oversized text, and lots of fluid animation; there are Xbox Live gaming features, and the entertainment capabilities seem to be Zunelike.

It’s dangerous to have your socks knocked off by a demo video, which is all I’ve seen so far, since I’m not in Barcelona. But here is one:

Gizmodo has a good summary of what’s new in the new OS–and like everyone else who’s seen it close-up and blogged about it, Giz is enthusiastic.

Microsoft’s decision to reboot its phone OS was the right one–the only possible one, probably–and if Windows Phone 7’s interface is anywhere near as good as the one on the Zune HD, it’ll be impressive.

I already know I like the fact that it doesn’t look much of anything like Windows 7–for years, Windows Mobile has been inherently hobbled by Microsoft’s insistence that a mobile version of Windows should have a Start Menu and System Tray-like icons and other features which just won’t work well on a teeny-tiny screen.

More thoughts to come…


Clues Point to a Microsoft Zune Phone

Technologist Long Zheng’s watchful eye caught a clue that points to the likely existence of an upcoming Zune phone, according to blog post he published today.

A Zune software update (version includes a USB device driver package that reference hardware IDs for an as of yet unknown Microsoft Zune product. Zheng noted that USB body regulations forbid vendors from masking devices IDs, so the device must be from Microsoft. There are three variants of the ID that may point to different models, he added.

There has been a lot of speculation about whether or not Microsoft will make its own device. I was in the “yes” camp over a year ago, because I believe that Microsoft will attempt to maintain parity with Apple’s product mix. It acquired Sidekick creator Danger Inc., and tasked executive Roz Ho (former head of its Mac business unit) to absorb Danger into its Entertainment and Devices division.

It’s true that Microsoft’s Windows Mobile business model has been reliant on third parties, but that model hasn’t given the platform much wind in its sails as evidenced by the OS’s sinking market share. However, it isn’t exactly backing off from supporting its IHV partners. It’s also sticking to its story that it has no immediate plans to build a Zune phone.

Last year, it was reported that Microsoft was giving devices makers reference designs to use to build their own next generation Windows Mobile devices. It is also working on Zune-branded services, code-named “Pink,” “Skybox,” and “SkyMart,” to standardize the user experience across devices.

My bet is that Microsoft is in the mobile device market for the long haul. The fact that Apple is now selling a substantial number of connected devices, which contributes solidly to its bottom line, is not escaping Microsoft. It will try many things.

The company realizes that people are accessing information and services from a growing number of devices, and has technology planned to accommodate that change both in the short (Silverlight) and long term (Midori OS).

We are going to have to wait and see what Microsoft is doing; it’s a big company that has a lot of coals in the fire. Keep a close eye out on Mobile World Congress next month.

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Windows Mobile Scuttlebutt

CrunchGear’s John Biggs has some alleged Windows Mobile 7 facts from a tipster, who says that it’s based on the Zune HD’s OS (potentially good–the HD is pretty darn slick) and won’t run existing Windows Mobile software. If so, Microsoft is rebooting Windows Mobile rather than upgrading it. Seems like as smart a strategy as any at this point…

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Should Microsoft Abandon Phones?

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?


5Words: In Defense of Windows Mobile

Windows Mobile: not so bad.

Tweet, or we’ll arrest you.

Worm attacks jailbroken iPhones, Touches

Drobo adds two new versions.

Apple touts Black Friday sale.

iMacs: faster than Mac Pros.

Extended eBay outage? How nostalgic!

Bing censoring Chinese-language searches?

Wii gets video. In Japan.

Android and Chrome OS: merging?

Windows 8: due in 2012


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Oh Yeah, Windows Mobile 6.5

htcpureBetween yesterday’s news about Flash on phones and today’s Google-Verizon deal and announcements yet to come from the CTIA Wireless IT & Entertainment show in San Diego, it’s a big week for phone-related developments. But the release of the first phones with Windows Mobile 6.5 is going off with a whimper, not a bang. (That’s the HTC Pure, available from AT&T, to the right.) The title of John Herrman’s review of Microsoft’s new phone OS over at Gizmodo kind of sums it up: “Windows Mobile 6.5 Review: There’s No Excuse for This.”

The fact that Windows Mobile 6.5 is blah and uncompetitive with iPhone OS and Palm’s WebOS isn’t news. Microsoft’s massive problems with its phone OS were apparent the moment Steve Jobs removed the first iPhone from his pocket at his Macworld Expo keynote in January of 2007, and they’ve unfolded in slow motion ever since. The company unveiled the new version back in February at the Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona, and it was clear then that the update was going to be an unsatisfactory stopgap. This week’s only new twist is that the unsatisfactory stopgap has finally reached consumers.

I’m trying to think of another example in tech history of a major player moving quite as slowly to react to the changing world around it. The ones that come to mind involve the major developers of productivity apps for DOS–products such as Lotus 1-2-3 and WordPerfect–and their delayed reaction to the transition from DOS to Windows in the early 1990s. Both Lotus and WordPerfect eventually came out with perfectly respectable Windows versions. But it took way too long, and the products were never the same.

Microsoft is in no danger of becoming the next Lotus or WordPerfect anytime soon. Long-term, though, there may be nothing more important to the company’s future as having a competitive mobile operating system. Even if Windows Mobile 7 turns out to be dazzling, it going to be a latecomer to a party that’s been going on for years. Speculation has it that the first WinMo 7 phones may not show up until the end of next year, around three and a half years after the first iPhone arrived.

That might just be too late. And even if Microsoft stages a dramatic comeback in the phone biz, it may have more than a year of additional slow-motion woe–and degradation to the Windows Mobile brand–ahead of it.


Microsoft Phones Revealed?

Gizmodo is certainly on a roll–after publishing what seems to be a Microsoft video of a dual-screen concept tablet PC, it’s dug up photos that supposedly show two Windows Mobile smartphones which will be cobranded by Microsoft and Sharp. One looks a lot like a Palm Pre, one looks kind of like a Sidekick, and neither is inherently exciting. Then again, it won’t be hardware designs that will make any upcoming Windows Mobile phone a big whoop–that’ll only occur if Windows Mobile 7 turns out to be a great leap forward. At the moment, at least, almost all smartphone hardware isn’t much more than a container for software–even with the iPhone, maybe fifteen percent of what makes it interesting is the hardware, and the rest is the iPhone OS.


Palm Ditches Windows Mobile

Almost exactly four years ago, I attended a press conference in San Francisco at which Bill Gates and Palm CEO Ed Colligan announced that Palm was going to start selling Treo smartphones running Windows Mobile. It was one of those decisions that made rational business sense at the time but which was all wrong emotionally: It was just plain sad that Palm, one of the greatest mobile software companies ever, had to adopt the not-very-exciting Windows Mobile to appeal to business types. (I tried to like the WinMobile Treos: I even bought an unsubsidized one to replace my Palm OS-based Treo 650. But it was neither a great Treo nor a great Windows Mobile device, and I ended up selling it after a few months.)

Today, Gearlog’s Sascha Segan notes that current Palm CEO Jon Rubenstein said during Palm’s earnings call today that the company won’t be making any more Windows Mobile phones–starting with the Pre and Pixi, it’s betting everything on its own WebOS. Which isn’t the least bit surprising given Windows Mobile’s diminished state. This time around, the hard-nosed business move is also the one that feels truest to Palm’s character as a company.

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