Microsoft's Mobile Update May Use Zune Software and Lack Flash, Says Report

Microsoft's smartphone-related rollout at Mobile World Congress on Feb. 15 could be a mobile operating system with a flashy Zune-like interface and lack of Flash support, according to online rumors. PPC Geeks is reporting through unnamed sources that Microsoft's offering will include no multitask support and that Windows Mobile Device Center will no longer be used. Microsoft has kept the subject of its announcement under wraps, but executives have nonetheless suggested that it will be a major update to the company's struggling mobile operating system franchise, currently facing intense competitive pressure from the likes of Apple's iPhone and Google Android.

Details of Microsoft's smartphone-related announcement during the Mobile World Congress are being kept under wraps until the company's press conference Feb. 15, but the rumor mill continues to churn unabated about the possibility that a "Zune Phone" or similar branded device will be unveiled on that date. Current rumors seem to suggest that Microsoft's new offering in the mobile space will include a flashy Zune-style interface, although actual Flash support may be missing.

The blog PPC Geeks reported on Feb. 6, quoting unnamed sources, that Microsoft will reveal the interface for its new mobile platform, one that will be "very similar to the Zune HD User Interface with a complete revamp of the 'Smart' screen." In addition, "there will be no Flash support at the get go as there was not enough time to implement these features." There will be no multitask support, with applications pausing when regaled to the background, but Zune and Xbox gaming will both be integrated into the devices, which Microsoft allegedly hopes will be launched in September 2010. On top of that, according to the blog's sources, "Windows Mobile Device Center will no longer be used. Zune software to take over syncing via PC."

Microsoft has repeatedly declined to comment to eWEEK about the veracity of various Windows Mobile rumors drifting through the blogosphere over the past few months. During a Jan. 28 earnings call, Microsoft CFO Peter Klein mentioned that "the next version of Windows Mobile" would be talked about during February's World Mobile Congress in Barcelona, but declined to go into further detail; on that same call, Bill Koefoed, Microsoft general manager of investor relations, went on to suggest that the company was making undefined "progress" in the smartphone arena.

General online consensus seems to be that Microsoft will either introduce Mobile 7 or a newly updated version of the current Mobile 6.5, which made its debut in October 2009.

Microsoft is already making updates to Mobile 6.5, however, as evidenced by the debut of the Sony Ericsson Aspen smartphone Feb. 2. The device runs Windows Mobile 6.5.3, which a Microsoft spokesperson told eWEEK contains a number of tweaks: capacitive touch-screen support, touch controls that eliminate the need for a stylus, a horizontal scroll bar in place of tabs, touch support for legacy applications and a platform to enable multitouch.

If Microsoft does indeed release Mobile 7 later in 2010, questions could arise about its choice to operate both that new operating system and Mobile 6.5 in parallel: End users and developers may exhibit confusion over a variety of different mobile operating systems running on different phones.

On Feb. 1, Spanish blog MuyComputer reported that Microsoft would announce a "Zune Phone" at the Mobile World Congress, with editor Gustavo de Porcellinis writing that the device would be "based on Nvidia's Tegra platform" and include a screen with 480-by-272 resolution.

Zune's single-digit share of the portable-media-device market makes it seem unlikely, at least on an intuitive level, that Microsoft would choose to revamp its mobile OS franchise under that particular brand name. However, that blog post added credence to the rumors that Microsoft will integrate Zune functionality into its smartphone software, which would be in keeping with the company's attempts over the previous year toward moving Zune's image away from that of a dedicated media device and more toward a linked group of cloud-based applications.