A Hail Mary Pass for Mobile

By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2010-01-03 Print this article Print

Microsoft Throws Its Hail Mary Pass for Mobile

By the second quarter of 2009, Microsoft's share of the mobile operating system market had declined to around 9 percent. October saw the release of Windows Mobile 6.5, but even the company's executives admitted that the update to Microsoft's Mobile OS was just a placeholder until 2010, when the company is expected to roll out Mobile 7.

Mobile 7 is supposedly a major upgrade to Microsoft's operating system franchise, and the company has thus far kept details under wraps. However, continued pressure from a variety of competitors in the space, including Google, Apple and Research In Motion, makes Mobile 7's quest for market share a decidedly difficult one.

Some have declared that quest an impossible one. "It's time to declare Microsoft a loser in phones. Just get out of dodge," Mark Anderson of the Strategic News Service told The New York Times on Dec. 10, in comments widely circulated. "Phones are consumer items, and Microsoft doesn't have consumer DNA."

But 2010 will ultimately determine whether Anderson's comments prove accurate, and Windows Mobile becomes an also-ran, or if Mobile 7 allows Microsoft to retain or gain incremental share in the market space.

Microsoft Plunges into the Cloud, Again Facing Google

Microsoft built its business primarily on the desktop. However, it has taken steps to embrace the paradigm shift inherent in the rise of cloud computing, some of which will bloom to fuller life in 2010.

Jan. 1, 2010 marks the full "switch on" of Microsoft's Azure cloud platform, composed of three parts that work in symphony to create Web applications and services: Windows Azure, an operating system as a service; SQL Azure, a cloud-based relational database; and .Net services, which provide both secure connectivity and federated access control for applications.

Customers will have three payment options for the service: a pay-as-you-go model, subscription format or volume licensing. Microsoft's competitors in the space include Amazon and Google.

Given that cloud services represent a potential $150 billion market opportunity, according to research firm Gartner, it's unsurprising that these companies are all fighting for market-share. For its part, Microsoft could help increase the acceptance of cloud computing within the enterprise.

"There are many enterprises that consider themselves Microsoft shops that have people that only know Microsoft tools and APIs," Gartner analyst Ray Valdes told eWEEK in 2008, when the Azure platform was first announced. "Amazon and Google have been chipping away at these, but Microsoft is firmly entrenched."

Microsoft may be positioned well for the enterprise cloud market in 2010, but its other cloud-based endeavors may prove a riskier bet. In a bid to compete with Google Apps, Microsoft will introduce browser-accessible versions of OneNote, Excel, Word and PowerPoint for Windows Live subscribers. Although these Web-based applications will lack the full functionality of the upcoming Office 2010, Microsoft is evidently hoping that enough users will gravitate toward their own cloud productivity suite in place of Google's offering.

Given that Google Apps have attracted attention among consumers, municipal governments and businesses, however, Microsoft could find itself in a bit of fight when it comes to spreading its own brand of Web-based productivity. But Redmond also doesn't have much of a choice; in 2010, Google will attempt to spread Google Apps even further among the enterprise and consumers via the propagation of Google Chrome, its upcoming browser-based OS for netbooks and-potentially-more robust PCs. Browser-accessible versions of Office may blunt some of Google's impact.

Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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