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Has the Window Closed for Windows Mobile?

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Microsoft (s msft) CEO Steve Ballmer disappointed those looking for news about Windows Mobile at CES this week, leaving onlookers to speculate that the company will unveil version 7 of the aging operating system at Mobile World Congress next month in Barcelona, Spain. But I’m beginning to think that without a new operating system, it’s already too late for Redmond to get back in the smartphone game.

Microsoft’s winnowing importance in mobile is well documented, of course. WinMo has lost nearly a third of its market share over the last year, according to recent figures from Gartner, and AdMob traffic indicates that traffic from the OS on the wireless web has dropped off 70 percent during that time. Meanwhile, the iPhone (s aapl) continues to gain traction worldwide, Research In Motion (s rimm) is seeing strong demand for the BlackBerry and Google (s goog) has built on Android’s substantial momentum with its own branded handset (which, notably, is manufactured by HTC — a company whose focus is clearly shifting from Redmond to Mountain View). To make things worse, Palm (s palm) will soon make its webOS-based handsets available through both AT&T (s t) and Verizon Wireless (s vz).

WinMo 6.5 drew scathing reviews following its October launch, making it clear that the OS desperately a complete overhaul. But the mobile world has moved very quickly in the last year, and WinMo may simply be outdated beyond repair. Microsoft might regain its relevance in mobile with a brand new OS — I think Palm’s webOS is a great fit (GigaOM Pro, sub. required) — but anything less is likely to seal the company’s fate as a niche enterprise player. And that’s a lonely place to be in a smartphone space that is now all about the consumer.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Tijs Zwinkels.

9 Responses to “Has the Window Closed for Windows Mobile?”

  1. Hi-Tech Institute of Mobile Technologies, providing technical education, Mobile Repairing Course, Mobile Repairing Course in Delhi. Hi-Tech From our humble beginnings in January 2004, Hi-Tech Institute of Mobile Technologies, providing technical education, has grown by leaps and bounds to be regarded as one of the foremost institutes for mobile technology and research in India.

  2. I’m not a Microsoft fanboy. I believe Apple’s iPhone provides the best for consumers in the mobile market today. I also believe Google is running a respectable second place and that Microsoft will have to pull out all the stops just to catch up.

    That being said, anyone who was expecting any sort of news concerning WinMo7 at this year’s CES hasn’t been paying much attention…to anything. Ballmer stated long ago that we wouldn’t hear about the next-gen OS until Mobile World Congress and Microsoft’s MIX. Did so many people really expect him to pull a total 360? I mean, I can understand hoping for some sort of news (I know I was), but expecting it or feeling letdown by the lack of some announcement? Really?

    And to say that Microsoft is DOA is just silly. Those are the words of Apple fanboys, Microsoft haters, and fools. Just over one year ago, Google proved that a company could enter the mobile world and really stir things up. Android has captured a sizable portion of the market and continues to make ground, and remember that just a few years ago the iPhone seemingly came from nowhere to overshadow all other handsets. There is no reason that Microsoft can’t do the same thing a few months from now, a year from now, or even a several years from now. The fact is that the mobile market is fluid and always open to the next new thing, as all tech markets are.

    No one is ever DOA.

    Perhaps a few consumers have closed the door to Microsoft in their minds–closed-mindedness is an unfortunate quality–but most people haven’t. Heck, the average person probably doesn’t really care (or even know) who makes the OS on his or her handset. People just care that their phones look pretty and can do nifty things.

    Me, I’ll wait until next month to make a decision about what my next phone will be. If Microsoft fails to deliver with WinMo7, I’ll hope beyond hope that the iPhone comes to Verizon, and if it doesn’t, I’ll pick up an Android handset.

    I have a feeling that no matter which I choose, I’ll end up happy.

  3. Karen Musgate

    Windows Mobile 7 is already DOA.

    The platform is a complete fiasco. It has been full of promises from Microsoft, but nothing delivered. The world has given up on this train wreck and is moving to Android.

  4. Colin,

    Web OS is Linux based and runs a Webkit browser. Those 2 components are a no no at Microsoft. If MS buys Palm, they will do what they did to Sidekick, kill it (Sidekick=Linux and Java)

  5. My preference has always been for full OSes adapted to the mobile scenario. That said, Microsoft never approached the model from that perspective, and WinMo was always the lagging stepchild meant to promote a continued Windows dominance. As that wall comes tumbling down, the mobile model then becomes equally questionable.

    Any OS with a complete browser and a stable development model is viable. But…, duking it out for market share between Apple, RIM and Google will not make for a pleasant romp. As with Nokia, go mobile web top to bottom, and go world-wide!

    I have to agree that the odds are against them, and by this summer all of the major players will be updating their OSes. The tablet presentation was particularly painful, but frankly they all are. The future is not print magazines redesigned quasi-interactive PDFs but as interconnected media more akin to YouTube. Wow, the pages turn!