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By Guy Kewney  |  Posted 2004-10-04 Print this article Print

: Will Microsoft step into the breach?"> I cant see it. "Developers being dissatisfied with the support they get? Sounds like situation normal to me," commented Nagel when I asked him about the high level of dissatisfaction expressed by developers for all mobile platforms. Hes not wrong. But when it comes to mobile software, the developers have a real point. The problem with Symbian, they say, is dreadful documentation. The trouble with Palm is the lack of support from Palm or PalmSource or Metrowerks. And the trouble with Linux is the unmanageably large API library, the incompatibility of different implementations, and the focus on servers. But does this mean that Microsoft can step into the breach, as ABI Research predicts?
Ill happily concede that, when it comes to Windows Mobile, Microsoft code is much, much tighter and better than the desktop version of Windows. Most developers seem to think so, anyway. They even praise Microsoft for making some kind of attempt to reconcile its various platforms.
But you dont have to know too much about the wireless platforms to know that Palm applications are a tiny fraction of the size of the other two main ones, and far more efficient. And you need spend only half an hour with developers to find out that Symbian smart phones are smaller than Palm smart phones in complexity, size, power and everything else. The bulk of the Symbian market is barely smart at all, and almost nobody downloads software for that platform. Microsoft smart phones may have a chance of knocking Symbian off its perch—but only at the top of the platform, not the bottom. Meanwhile, the bulk of wireless application developers will continue to write for Java, because thats what you find on most phones. And Esmertec, not Microsoft, will rule the roost for the next two years. Maybe, one day, all phones will be so smart that you can dual and triple boot the things, and run all varieties of mobile code. When that happens, Ill ground my private jet (a round-bellied Vietnamese pig) and take up Nokia-tree pruning. But Ill bet that even then, Microsoft will be limited to running on the biggest ones. Read Guy Kewneys other recent columns about trends in mobile and wireless technology.
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