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Summary:

Speaking yesterday at the Professional Developer’s Conference, Microsoft’s Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie explained what’s really important when it comes to the smartphone business, and it’s apparently nothing at all to do with the number of apps available on any one platform. All the apps that […]

windows mobile

Speaking yesterday at the Professional Developer’s Conference, Microsoft’s Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie explained what’s really important when it comes to the smartphone business, and it’s apparently nothing at all to do with the number of apps available on any one platform.

All the apps that count will be ported to every one of them. It’s a completely different situation from the PC market, where software’s built to run on a Windows or a Mac. Mobile apps require very little development, so it’s much easier to bring them onto every platform.

Yeah. That’s why there are more than 100,000 apps in the iTunes Store and, what, five in the Windows Marketplace? And that’s why quality apps like Facebook or Tweetie 2.0 have been ported, feature-complete, from the iPhone to Windows Mobile, Blackberry and Palm OS? Oh, wait…

The point here is that Microsoft’s senior execs apparently continue to misunderstand what’s going on in todays smartphone market. Microsoft seems to view the iPhone not as a serious competitor but more as a toy, something to disregard because grown-ups (grey-suited corporate drones) aren’t interested in all that flashy functionality and rich media. They’re not interested in the astonishing range of software available for the iPhone. They just want Mobile Powerpoint and Excel, plus a few other ageing Office apps. That’s all that really matters, right?

Wrong. We need look no further than JD Power’s recently published results of a satisfaction survey they conducted of business smartphone customers around the world. Apple came in at number one, RIM finished second.

WIRED’s Gadget Lab published an article yesterday examining some of the mistakes Microsoft has made with Windows Mobile. NPD Group analyst Ross Rubin told WIRED:

Microsoft’s mobile OS history is rooted in personal digital assistants, which were marketed toward enterprise audiences. Today, the smartphone has shifted into the mainstream as a consumer device, and yet Windows Mobile is still largely focused on enterprise features.

Perhaps Microsoft has a significant change planned for the release of Windows Mobile 7, WIRED’s Brian Chen asked Redmond HQ. They declined to discuss Windows 7 directly, but did have this to say about their mobile OS business;

The company’s mobility strategy has not changed; it is and has always been to provide a software platform for the industry. The company works closely with many mobile operators and device makers around the world because people want different experiences on a variety of phones.

Well, it’s certainly a different experience alright. A lousy one. That’s one reason Microsoft’s global smartphone market share has dropped from 11 percent in 2008 to 7.9 percent today. In the meantime, Apple and RIM have seen their market shares swell to 17.1 and 20.8 percent, respectively.

Microsoft’s Mobile strategy is out of touch. Ever-increasing numbers of enterprise customers who once used Windows phones are today carrying Blackberrys or iPhones and have entirely different expectations of their cellular devices. Mobile Outlook just won’t cut it any more.

Hopping Mad

Driving the point home is a timely article published this week by the Wall Street Journal, about the disparity between old, primitive tech used in the office, and the far more capable and empowering technology found at home. According to the WSJ’s Nick Wingfield, execs at Kraft Foods noticed the difference.

Executives began to worry that the company’s technology policies were preventing employees from staying in step with trends. Kraft was a consumer company, they figured, so workers needed to be more familiar with the technologies that consumers were using, whether the iPhone or YouTube.

So, the IT department stopped blocking access to consumer Web sites, and the company started a stipend program for smart phones: Workers get an allowance every 18 months to buy a phone of their choosing. (Over 60% picked iPhones.)

With all the above in mind, I can’t see how Microsoft’s Mobile strategy could be considered sound business. If I were a Microsoft shareholder, I’d be hopping mad at the company’s apparent inability to understand — and adapt to — the demands of today’s smartphone consumers.

It’s paradoxical, really. Microsoft has always highlighted how customer choice is of paramount importance, indeed, a key component in its success with Windows. In the quote above, Microsoft’s own spokesperson stresses how Microsoft works with mobile operators and OEM’s to provide choice. But at the PDC yesterday, Ozzie seemed to be saying that an impressive selection of apps (ie. choice) is unimportant. He mentions “apps that count” but doesn’t say what those apps are; in any case, that’s a short-sighted assertion. Apps that matter to me, may not matter so much to you. That’s precisely why an iPhone owner’s home screen is so fascinating to other iPhone owners.

The iPhone’s greatest strength is the tens of thousands of software titles available in the App Store, usually at a knock-down price. There is, literally, something for everyone, no matter how discerning ones’ taste in Games, Productivity tools, or fart apps.

I give Windows Mobile another year, max. If it can’t build its app marketplace into a substantial repository of quality titles at (very) low prices, it won’t matter how closely Microsoft works with its technology partners. Because, at that point, Windows Mobile will be reduced to a Wikipedia entry as an “also ran” in the history of the smartphone.

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  1. Wow. What an idiot. And Ozzie is supposed to be the “coolest” most “in-touch” guy they have on the top tier.

    Windows Mobile has hardly changed since “Pocket PC” days and is already irrelevant. They have one shot, and one shot only with WinMobile 7 to *start* to claw their way back up, but the odds are against them. Even if it’s amazing and new and everything they hope for, it will still only get them a foot in the door that’s already closing on their ass.

    They will probably make WinMobile 7 focus on connectivity with Windows and MS Office (believing that’s what consumers actually want), but Apple will already have done an end run around them with a tablet reading PDFs natively, running Pages, and connecting to an app store that makes Windows itself irrelevant.

    1. This is more of him trying to spin the few points they think they have an advantage on, in a platform that is lagging behind several other platforms. If MS had the app popularity on mobile devices he would be singing a different tune about apps on mobile devices. They do not talk about problems with their platforms unless to try and discount them (often try not to admit they exist until an improvement is implemented).

  2. Windows Mobile is dead, that much is clear.

    What it doesn’t mean is that I’d rather have “an app for that” than a good mobile website that works on anything, with a browser that gives them equal footing with native apps, Chrome OS style.

  3. I am so happy to see Microsoft slowly sink like the Titanic due to its own internal icebergs… I am going to enjoy every single moment of their slow and well-deserved drowning into obscurity.

  4. Apps don’t matter, WinMo has tons of apps, has had tons of apps for years and years. Good design and good customer experience on the other hand, well that matters a lot. I’d still be an iPhone user if all my apps were taken away.

  5. Apps matter. Like ten of thousands of apps for PALM Pilot.

  6. Apps matter.

    That’s why I switched back to Windows. It has WAY more apps than OS X.

    1. Yeah, 60% are useless crap and the rest splits between games and apps like Adobe Reader, because I still can’t read pdfs natively on Windows 7.

      Sorry, but I can’t understand that XD

  7. Yes, there are literally five apps in the Windows Marketplace…

  8. Microsoft’s Bad Image should be a Warning to Apple Friday, November 20, 2009

    [...] Software Architect Ray Ozzie’s bewildering assertion that “apps don’t matter” — despite everyone else on Earth knowing [...]

  9. A little off topic – but maybe timely for this post. I just had a final run-in with tech support for the xbox. I didn’t want to buy the product, but a friend really wanted it and didn’t want to pay the high cost. Figuring, “we’ll have something to do” and remembering those brief times when the first xbox worked and we had a blast playing Halo, I went for it. The machine had problems in 6 months, and died soon after.

    We sent it for an overhaul. Three months later all the discs are gouged in a perfect machine-made circle, and Microsoft insists that if we just pay a little more – which means $120 more – they “promise, it’ll work great, dude.” Yes, they said dude in the middle of an outrage.

    Nothing would make them budge. And why should they? Read any site that has written about the incredible numbers of Xboxes with problems (some have asserted 54% or more) and the comments sections are littered with gamers saying things like “the first one died after 4 months, yeah and that sucked, but the second one has worked great.” Incredibly, those of us dumb enough to go for this will just keep pouring money into this in an unprecedented manner just to play exclusive games like call of duty.

    Their manner on the phone was incredibly abusive – one manager screamed at my friend because after three hours he actually had to leave the house while on hold and had to use hands-free speakerphone. Speakerphone not allowed! She hung up on him after screaming.

    Another side-effect is that a lot of the lower levels of help are so apologetic, and mutter answers like “dude… I don’t know, I just don’t know…” as if it’s a hostage stand-off. They say “I don’t know” in that same tired voice we’d all use if we had to survive by parasitism.

    The blogs that have come out by former employees read like a Dickens novel. But what is frustrating is that the answer is basically “you’re just screwed.” Why? Why is it impossible to get this company to stand by a product – any product? Why are they so mean to their employees? Why can’t we get some solidarity as a group on this so that as consumers we have some say over how much capitalization companies can rake in from bad product? Why doesn’t the government stand up to them on our behalf? Why can’t we stand in some kind of solidarity with their employees so that at least engineers at that company are treated respectfully, instead of having four managers over every engineer studying ways to get their names and fingerprints on a product?

    I made the switch to Mac a while ago and this Xbox 360 is a final holdover. But I was really startled that in the war to get platforms in people’s homes so they’ll pony up for those absurdly priced games, and on-line play (at last my friend would have kept paying forever for Call of Duty online, something I could never bring myself to do), Microsoft just ended a relationship with us that has been entirely profitable for them for years now. And I’m startled that it took Microsoft to finally do it, and not me. How could I have been this dumb all along? Why are the American people throwing their already -depleted cash into this? I know it’s turning around… but the xbox is still a holdout from which Microsoft has the capacity to continue stealing from the public. We would never allow cars, for example, to leave the lots with a 54% fail rate.

    On a societal level, where the public consents to this, and on a personal level, where I angrily keep participating, and on a corporate level, where I’ve never seen ethics and business models so poor, I’m reeling on all levels.

  10. I just want to add that the proliferation of comments from users stating that they had bought a second xbox 360 only months after the demise of the first was something I noticed back when the xbox was first released and it was many hundreds of dollars more than it is today. I remember writing to a friend “there are people defending the xbox because it only cost them $750 to get a working product” and mailing along a link. But I’m certainly no better or smarter, unfortunately.

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