Don't shed any tears for Windows Mobile, is the message of an Oct. 1 study from iSuppli.
Though Palm recently announced it would discontinue using the Windows Mobile operating system on its smartphones, in favor of focusing on its own OS, webOS, and Motorola has been less of a help, with the "company's shipments and market share in the mobile handset business ... declining in recent years, making it a less significant player," according to iSuppli, despite a drop to the No. 3 position, the researcher expects Microsoft to come back strong.
"Windows Mobile is facing a host of challenges, including rising competition from free alternatives like Symbian and Android, the loss of some key licensees and some shortcomings in its user interface," said iSuppli Analyst Tina Teng, in a statement. "However, Windows Mobile holds some major cards that will allow it to remain a competitive player in the market."
While Windows Mobile is expected to fall to the No. 3 position among worldwide smartphone operating systems in 2009, appearing on 27.7 million smartphones, that number is expected to climb to 67.9 million smartphones by 2013, boosting Windows back into the No. 2 spot by 2012. This would allot it 15.3 percent of the global market share and put it behind long-time leader Symbian, which is expected to control 47.6 percent market share.
Holding Windows Mobile back, in part, has been its user interface, which Teng remarks "looks poor compared to some of its slicker competitors-particularly Google's Android and Apple's iPhone operating system." Additionally, the current version doesn't support capacitive touchscreen technology.
However, Microsoft does have updates planned, with Windows Mobile 6.5 scheduled to arrive in October, bringing with it a fresher-looking start screen. Really boosting its game, however, will be the following version, Windows Mobile 7, which is scheduled to arrive in 2010 and feature an enhanced user interface and browser, along with a multitouch functionality.
(Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer regretfully remarked recently that he wished Windows Mobile 7, rather than 6.5, were going to be available this year.)
Also helping Microsoft's cause is its recent win with LG. iSuppli reports that the No. 3 mobile-phone maker has pledged to produce 50 Windows Mobile handset models.
Finally, the ace in Windows Mobile's hand, says Teng, is its complete infrastructure.
"The battle over smartphone software has spread beyond the operating systems. To win in today's environment, a company needs not only an operating system but also device support, an application store, a broad portfolio of applications and support from the developer community," said Teng in the statement. "While Windows Mobile is losing some share to competitors in 2009, most of the alternatives cannot match Microsoft's complete suite of offerings."
OEMs wanting to customize Symbian and Android operating systems must invest in add-on software, Teng explains, but Microsoft offers a complete set of services that can help clients with software integration and customization.
Despite the losses of Palm and Motorola, states the report, Windows Mobile nonetheless boasts the largest number of OEM licensees - 14 -among smartphone operating systems. Symbian, in second place, has 10.