Is Google's Android Killing Windows Mobile?


Earlier this morning, I got a chance to catch up with Dr. Sanjay Jha, co-CEO of Motorola (s MOT), soon after his company reported earnings (they met Wall Street’s modest expectations) to talk about everything from the state of the mobile market to prospects for Motorola. I will write all that up in a longer post, but there was one part of the conversation that stuck with me as it was very telling about the momentum around Google’s Android and the detrimental impact it’s having on Microsoft’s Windows Mobile.

As part of our conversation, Dr. Jha stressed that handset makers need to pick a single smartphone OS and devote resources to it in order to win. He pointed to Nokia and Symbian, Apple and its iPhone OS and RIM’s BlackBerry OS. He used that logic to justify why his company was betting the farm on Google’s Android. Why? Because it’s the best option for the company right now.

“I didn’t have any other compelling option,” he said. “The other OS got pushed.” I asked him if he was talking about Microsoft’s Windows Mobile or the LiMo operating systems, but Dr. Jha proved to be too polite to name names and reveal more details. Microsoft’s Windows Mobile 6.5 had been scheduled to make it out of the chutes by May, but won’t hit the market till October.

From what we’ve heard, there aren’t any Windows Mobile-based devices in Motorola’s line-up for 2010, so it’s reasonable to say that Windows Mobile has lost favor at Motorola. Back in February, The Wall Street Journal reported that Motorola was going to cut its ties with Windows Mobile. At the time, the handset maker denied any such moves. A month earlier, however, I hinted at Motorola backing away from Microsoft-based handsets.

Like upstart HTC, a long-time Windows Mobile loyalist, Motorola is focusing its development resources behind Google’s Android OS. Both HTC and Motorola are developing their own user interfaces for Android, which indicates their seriousness about Google’s mobile platform. I wonder if this is going to be a trend that’s going to spread. From what I’ve heard, everyone from Lenovo and Huawei to Dell to Samsung are betting on Android. These companies would have been partners of Microsoft in the past.

I feel Microsoft wasted away many years while it held the top position in the mobile handset business. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer recently told analysts that, “It was a tough year on succeeding with phones, mostly our own issues, frankly.”  (via The Washington Post). Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft’s entertainment and devices business, was more candid, and admitted to problems with Microsoft’s mobile strategy in a meeting with financial analysts and investors. Bach reported that Microsoft’s share of the mobile phone operating system market had declined despite the fact that volumes were up a tad. Microsoft claimed that 20 million Window Mobile phones were sold in 2008.

“To date, we haven’t done as good a job as I would like building relationships and getting the right integration with our hardware partners…You’re going to see dramatic improvement in integration.”

“It is our view that one model, one phone is not going to build volume,” he said. “People are going to want different configurations on their phones. We need to work very closely with Samsung, Sony Ericsson and others to build a broad selection of phones that provide a choice of different pricepoints and different capabilities.”

Funny there wasn’t any mention of Motorola! I wonder if it will be too late for the company to make a comeback, similar to Zune struggling to play catch-up with the iPod. So while there is a lot of focus on Apple vs. Google, the real battle is actually between Microsoft Windows Mobile and Google Android. It looks like Google has drawn its first blood.

(Dr. Jha will deliver a keynote speech and discuss Motorola’s bet on Mobile Internet in our mobile Internet-focused conference, Mobilize 09, that will be held in San Francisco on Sept. 10.)



If it wasn’t for the XDA-Developers, I probably would have dumped WinMo a long time ago. These guys breath new life in to old devices with their ROMs and applications.

MS had better hurry up and get 6.5 out the door and do what it can to force Carriers to release a supported upgrade for their users. After that 7.x hopefully comes along sooner rather than later.


I really would like Microsoft Office on my smart phone and can’t with android. With WM I can look at Power Point Presentations from my phone!


Android has no File Explorer! Compared to WM6.5 I think they really lack. I tried to download and can’t unless I have a card in, I know its smart idea when you have a card, but what good is a card without a file explorer?

sim only

I think the actual fight is between the iPhone and Andoid. Even though the iPhone holds the larger market share, more and more brands are using Android. Microsoft my be specialists in operating systems but the world wide web is a totally different thing and thats where Googles speciality comes in. Mobile web is a very important element and therefore Android and iPhone are best to take this forward.

John Carini

I would say that this healty debate indicates that there it is unlikely that there will be a dominant Smartphone OS any time soon. Either way only time will tell.

John Carini – Wireless CRM Guy


Not only Motorola is killing Windows Mobile but first and foremost Microsoft itself is killing it due to their lack of developping new functions and services (Application Store) for a few years while Google and Apple were working hard to get to the top. The same kind of death is coming for Nokia and its Smartphones. Eseries can’t compete anymore with Blackberrys and the Nseries can’t compete with Smartphones such as Iphone, HTC and many more to come on Android….


Android isn’t killing WinCe/Mo/Phone. Microsoft is. They aren’t driving the industry with new things, they are just feature matching what others are doing, only several years later.

I think the big problem for Microsoft is upgrades. All the WinMo devices sold now are v6.1 I believe, and when 6.5 is released at the end of the year, none of them are explicitly upgradable to v6.5. And with WinPhone being released less than six months later, Microsoft won’t even commit to enabling upgrading v6.5 phones to WinPhone. From engadget’s article on MS’s press release “Microsoft’s saying that no devices in the market today will receive official 6.5 updates”.

This lack of upgradability makes developing for the platform much harder, because it fragments the market more. Developers already have to worry about cell phone screen, input, memory and cpu differences, but they also have to decide which OS’s to target. And if you need the capabilities of say Windows Phone, you have to consider the install base starts at ZERO when it’s released.

With the iPhone (and presumably the G1/other Android phones and the Pre), you can count on not only new customers but also the millions of existing phones having the OS right after it’s released (it’s not 100% of all phones, but most iPhones, including the ones released 2 years ago, have been upgraded to 3.0 because it’s easy and free to do so). So developers could sell apps that required v3.0 right after it was released.


With the recent Android updates it shows that Google is really going to push Android. At this point, it seems to be leagues ahead of Windows Mobile in some aspects, but in others, leagues behind. With the right features and fixes, this could be a bad thing for Windows Mobile.


In the long run, Android will win, because Google is indicating as much seriousness about its mobile platform as the mobile makers

Jamie Lin

Bottom line, Android is free and has proven to attract followers even with a hack job G1. On the other hand, WinMo takes much higher-end hardware to run on top of royalty fees to MSFT. That along is enough for push phone makers over the edge in today’s low margin environment.


Thanx to all for excellent discussion.

Ref. Huckleberry Finn on Nokias 38% marked share. Remember that most phones out there are not heavy duty smart phones, but simple call & sms phones (the kind my mother is using). I am pretty sure Nokia and the other historic phone manufactures can live well on Symbian for their low end phones.

As smart phones and netbooks converge, I see no reason why the marked place can be filled with several OS systems as long as they can communicate and sync on the same protocols:
Simple mobiles to run on Symbian and similar. Smart phones to run Android, WebOS, iPhoneOS. Netbooks to run on Chrome OS, Linux, Windows7. Laptops to run Win7, OSX, Linux. High power desktop computers on OSX, Win7 or a UNIX distribution. This is just an example from the top of my head, the point being that no one OS provider will need to gain dominance as the availability of machinery will be more differentiated.

Seems to be a consensus WinMo must die. Given the arguments the verdict seems fair. But what really puzzles me, is that Microsoft had it! They had it all:
(1) a couple of dedicated handset manufactures (HTC and HP) well established in the higher end of the business marked,
(2) they had syncing for Exchange and MS Office docs,
(3) and they had a platform on which third party sw manufactures could develop their applications.
And still they failed, it seems like they never even tried. Even as iPhone came along MS still did not rise to met the challenge.



They had it all.
They have a chance , if they can muster the remaining engineering talent they have.
I love the underdog.

The one issue though , is the speed of execution.
They have to get it right , and get it fast.


While we will see Android devices, it is the same as Windows Mobile in terms of diverse device types and complexity in implementation. We won’t see Android really hurting Windows Mobile, in reality, both are pretty dead and I don’t see big upside for either in the handset space.

The real story is that ODMs want Android as an embedded OS. And, this is what is killing Windows CE and Windows Embedded. We will see custom shells and custom applications all for the embedded market. This is what is really happening.

Jesse Kopelman

If Android does kill WinMo, they will have done Microsoft a huge favor. Windows Mobile, rather than a scalable OS, was a huge mistake from the get go. Microsoft’s unwillingness to bet big on mobile is surely their biggest blunder. It seems like they are finally on the right track with Windows 7 — being the same basic platform for the entire range of devices. Getting WinMo kicked out of the market by Android would give them a good excuse to stop wasting money on it and focus everything on Windows 7 and beyond.

Huckleberry Finn

Good discussion. You guys are unaware of Nokia holding 38% market share of the mobile phone market and it still is the leading smartphone company in Europe and Middle East. They have acquired Trolltech not long time ago which has an excellent SDK. Apps you develop on it run on Winmo, Symbian and its easy use legacy code you might have from desktop applications (which again run on Windows, Linux and Mac). E.g. Skype is running on QT.

As a software platform S60 is way outdated, but once once their switch from Symbian/S60 to Linux/QT (Maemo) is complete it will be close to pole position. Nokia came late to the clamshells and now to touch screen segments but have achieved in both segments good market share now. Once their formidable production engine starts shipping millions and millions of affordable phones with Linux/QT we finally get a true mass market smartphone OS!

Kevin C. Tofel

“You guys are unaware of Nokia holding 38% market share of the mobile phone market and it still is the leading smartphone company in Europe and Middle East.”

Very true, but at the end of 2007, Nokia’s worldwide smartphone market share was over 50%. A year later, it was just above 40%. Both numbers are per Gartner. While Nokia is the current market share leader, the trend is down, down, down while iPhone and RIM are up, up, up.


Nokia is slowwwww.
We still don’t see a competing phone from Nokia that can go toe to toe with RIM or APPLE , dare I say a Pre.

I am aware of the E71 …… and so on. Its same old same old. Also I think the days of BB are numbered too. They are not innovating with their phones ( or Operating System).
Once HTC, Samsung start dumping BB form factor phones , RIMM can be RIP.


This is interesting, but not all together un-expected. Sanjay’s alma mater (QCOM) has been working closely with Google on Android for long and Sanjay would have worked very closely in the early stages of this partnership. After all Dr. Jha was leading the chips division at QCOM.


This is precisely what Android was designed to do. Why pay the $XX per handset Windows Mobile license fee (over $10 I think?) when you can use Android for free? It’s not like anyone actually likes or has any loyalty to Windows Mobile–plus Android, even at this early stage, is a far better experience. You can’t lose as an OEM.

Worst case, you spend that $10+ you were going to spend on WinMo for user acquisition.


I might agree with you, but Microsoft makes money from other areas to support the WinMo.
For Nokia they have to make money from their phones to support Symbian.


Om ,
Great post. Comforting to the likes who have long term MOTOROLA stock.

While Mr Jha did not name names , it is very simple , WinMo is dated , my god its a billion year old system. LiMo has potential , but lacks the firepower of google engineers (and that of the HTC , SAMSUNG …..)

WinMo crashes everyday ( yup the 6.1), the browser is not usable for serious browsing, the multimedia capabilities are not elegant and the battery life is horrible. The only thing it got going is a rich feature list plus that Microsoft Mobile Office. Partnering with Microsoft got them to this situation, and will not help them fight the APPLES and PALMS of the world.

Android is in the same category of iPhone Os and PALM ‘s WebOS.
And Google tells these handset makers to customize it.
Hence it is the natural choice.

My 2 cents , there will be iPhone OS , WebOS , Android, RIM and ( either Symbian or WinMo) in couple of years from now.
Personally I want the Symbian to die a slower death.

Pat Kelly

I recently switched from a T-Mobile Dash Windows Mobile Device to a HTC device running Android (also T-Mobile). I thought the decision between the two might prove difficult. The end user experience is not even comparable. Android is shockingly better than Windows Mobile. I was amazed at how easy it was to use a wide range of functionality. I found a flight reservation number in my Gmail inbox (one of 1700 messages) in like 15 seconds – try finding it in Outlook or Gmail via Windows mobile.

Any individual who is looking for a new phone would be nuts to go Windows Mobile with the other options now available.

The most interesting aspect of this story to me is the speed and ease at which Android was able to become superior to Windows Mobile.

Mishan Aburted

Does anyone have any stats on numbers of Android users out there? I’d love to move us onto Android development but wonder how big the market is. There seem to be a lot of Android phones in the pipeline and Apple — as usual — is pi**ing people off pretty regularly.


I’d say develop first, and focus on a second platform second. We started on Apple, and I feel that it will be good to move towards being a primary Android developer in the future. But for now, I anticipate holding steady and gaining experience in the processes and interaction models.

If you are not developing go towards Android! Apple’s approval really killed us.


Om ,
Great post.
Comforting to the likes who have long term MOTOROLA stock.

While Mr Jha did not name names , it is very simple , WinMo is dated , my god its a billion year old system. LiMo has potential , but lacks the firepower of google engineers (and that of the HTC , SAMSUNG …..)

WinMo crashes everyday ( yup the 6.1), the browser is not usable for serious browsing, the multimedia capabilities are not elegant and the battery life is horrible. The only thing it got going is a rich feature list plus that Microsoft Mobile Office. Partnering with Microsoft got them to this situation, and will not help them fight the APPLES and PALMS of the world.

Android is in the same category of iPhone Os and PALM ‘s WebOS.
And Google tells these handset makers to customize it.
Hence it is the natural choice.

My 2 cents , there will be iPhone OS , WebOS , Android, RIM and ( either Symbian or WinMo) in couple of years from now.
Personally I want the Symbian to die a slower death.


WinMobile crashes everyday? Maybe you have a bad 3rd party app causing the crashes. My experience is the opposite. WM is very stable, and rarely needs a reset on any of my WM devices ranging for PPC2003 to WM 6.1.

Concerning browsing – I personally do not like all the panning, scrolliing, zooming etc. required to see a full webpage on a small screen mobile device. I’ll take a mobile website (mobile, not wap) when using any device with a < 7" screen to avoid all the horizontal scrolling required with full websites.. Mobile IE does the best job displaying mobile sites at a text size comfortable to read. If you want full browsing, and don't mind all the required horizontal scrolling, there are many free, or low cost options available for WM. Ironically, the worst browser for displaying single column mobile pages not specifically designed for the iPhone is Mobile Safari. Yeah, it does a good job rendering full sites with all the required scrolling, zooming, and panning, but displays single column pages with too small a font for comfortable reading. If the webpage developer adds a Viewport metatag to the Head section of the page, then Mobile Safari will render single column pages at a comfortable text size for reading. Most single column pages have not added this tag. Try viewing Cragislist, one of the most popular English language sites, with an iPhone/iPod touch. It is totally unreadable in portrait mode, and barely readable in landscape mode unless you enjoy reading with an 8 or 9 point font.


Have you ever used a winmo phone?.

I have a xperia with winmo 6.5 & its rock solid (didnt have any problems with 6.1), the only problems I’ve seen is with htcs crap touch sense program (freezes the phone when it goes in standby mode) so i have it disabled by default. as for battery life i get around 4 days depending if i use the tomtom app unlike iphones that barely get through one day without dieing.


I agree that Windows Mobile OS has lost its luster…users and companies are both seem to be liking Android and moreover with this liking I think Andriod will evolve into something more robust in a year or two and the competition will be intense between iPhone OS and Andriod (Blackberry OS – may or may not flourish – its a kind of mediocre, Palm will sell itself to somebody)


I doubt PALM will sell , they came swinging at APPLE with Pre.
They have talent (current) and legacy (past) to compete with anyone.

Jacob Varghese

To Niraj’s point, Apple’s is working hard to be the corporate and consumer choice. so far my iphone handles Exchange email and calendar events much better than my nokia e71 ever did.

I think the market will be dominated by Android, iPhone and Blackberry.

But Blackberry needs to innovate, in my office, everyone is trading in there Berrys for iPhones.

Will Robertson

“Both HTC and Motorola are developing their own user interfaces for Android”

Do these custom UIs cause havoc with 3rd party Apps? Wouldn’t it be hard to make an app feel native to the platform if every Android phone has its own UI style?


@Curtis, I agree except that I don’t think WinMo has changed that much since I first started using it in 2003.


the >30% leader in the mobile space is going to be a company who can play in both consumer and enterprise markets.
The success of android will depend on its ability to compete with apple in the consumer space, but also on google ability to make google apps a success.

Today the Enterprise use case for Android is – Forward your corporate email to gmail /apps accounts . Seems to work but not very tight


Actually, the enterprise use case with Android has changed quite a bit. Right now, many Android devices (including t-mobile’s mytouch, which is a very nice device) are shipping with native exchange support as well as with Google apps support, a big step forward. Touchdown, a third party exhange app is – hands down – the best mobile exchange email/calendaring solution I’ve ever used on any device. It’s simply fantastic.

Speaking as someone who’s done development on WinMo and Android, there’s lilttle comparison. Android is a much better development environment and a smipler deployment environment, both of which should worry Microsoft mightily.

And, as an end user, after suffering though WinMo release after WinMo release up to the current one, I never used one which just -worked- as well as Android did out of the box, and Android has improved a lot since it first came out, and this is what should really give Microsoft the shakes. WinMo never worked as well as the first release of Android.

Finally there is the small matter that base Android, without the Google apps, is free. With some small amount of licensing work, you could put together a completely exchange-only Android solution at an absolutely minimal per device cost. Or you could skip exchange and just do it.


I dont like to point out, but there is a small mistake i feel in editing ‘playsanjay’

as for WM – i say RIP, the old Palm OS on the Treo 650 was enough for me to ditch WM



Given our experience developing WinMo applications, I’d say Microsoft has done more to limit developer and consumer adoption during mass market acceptance of smartphones. This is not to say that Google hasn’t done a great job with android, they’ve done a phenomenal job to clear. Microsoft, on the other hand, didn’t move agressively to improve the development environment of WinMo, nor did they make any real improvements in usability on handsets embedded with WinMo. End result, WinMo isn’t much different today than it was some 2 to 3 years ago, and the overall user experience with 3rd party software applications is awful at best.


android success depends on success of andriod market place ………..aka apps on android platform …since standard j2me apps dont work android nor native x11 apps ………..every app has to replicated on android platform …question is will there be any killer apps on android platform besides those from google


Andriod success depends on the success of the PLATFORM as a foundation not the appS.
If the platform is solid, the apps will come along (sure they have a billion fart apps :-) ) .
But the foundation ( read SDK , packaging , installing and security among other things) should be excellent.
iPhone OS and WebOS seem to have a solid foundation with Andriod following behind.


It’s still all projected success/wins.Aren’t they still as of now a fart in the wind in terms of sales and partners compared to WinMo.


Nope , it was not a fart in the wind, its more like fart inside a closed room.

WinMo , was history.
lately WinMo hasn’t attracted any cool developers?
EA, PANDORA , GAMELOFT ….. the list goes on.
These folks want to jump on iPhone OS or Andriod or PALM WebOS.

Forget the APPS , why on earth Microsoft cannot make a decent Mobile browser ?

They had a decent browser all the way back in 2000 , this is 2009 , where does the IE stand ?

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