Microsoft is shutting down its Windows Marketplace for Mobile service for Windows Mobile 6.x, the increasingly antiquated predecessor to Windows Phone.
Beginning May 9, 2012, the Windows Mobile 6.x Marketplace service will no longer be available, read a note posted on the Microsoft Answers Website. Starting on this date, you will no longer be able to browse, buy or download applications directly onto your Windows Mobile 6.x phone through the Marketplace.
However, applications and games downloaded before that date will continue to work on devices. Windows Mobile applications and games that are compatible with Windows Mobile 6.x may still be available directly from their developers or via third-party marketplaces, added the posting. The shutdown will not affect the Windows Phone Marketplace, which offers applications and games for Microsofts newer Windows Phone.
News of the shutdown quickly found its way onto tech Websites such as TechCrunch.
Microsoft launched Windows Mobile 6.5 in October 2009 with diminished expectations. During Microsofts Venture Capital Summit the previous month, CEO Steve Ballmer reportedly suggested the company had screwed up its smartphone franchise, whose market share had been steadily eroding in the face of fierce competition from the likes of Google Android. Windows Mobile 6.5 was supposed to act as a sort of stopgap measure until Microsoft could launch a new and improved smartphone operating system, which turned out to be Windows Phone 7.
Windows Mobile 6.5 nonetheless failed to stop that erosion. The same business customers who traditionally gravitated to Microsofts mobile products began to embrace the Apple iPhone and Google Android devices in greater numbers.
But Microsofts current Windows Phone push, despite some high-profile devices from Nokia and other manufacturing partners, has so far failed to translate into significant gains in U.S. smartphone market share. According to research firm comScore, Microsofts share of total U.S. smartphone subscribers declined from 5.4 percent in October 2011 to 4.4 percent in January 2012.
That dip might be partially due to Windows Mobile, as users abandon it in favor of either Windows Phone or a rival smartphone operating system. In that case, the loss of Windows Marketplace for Mobile could accelerate the Windows Mobile bleed-off, which might translate into further losses for Microsofts overall smartphone market share. That being said, the faster Microsoft clears the old version away, the faster it can concentrate its whole effort on making Windows Phone a success.