Microsoft invited no press to its Venture Capital Summit Sept. 24, but word has leaked out that CEO Steve Ballmer suggested that his company "screwed up" on Windows Mobile, its operating system for smartphones.
A handful of venture capitalists present at the event sent messages via Twitter about Ballmer's admission. Hamburg-based venture capitalist Paul Jozefak wrote in a much-publicized Tweet: "Ballmer says they screwed up with Windows Mobile. Wishes they had already launched WM7. They completely revamped the team."
Another Tweet, allegedly from the event, had Ballmer saying "new talent" had been "pumped" into the Windows Mobile team.
Microsoft did not respond to eWEEK's request for comment.
Windows Mobile has indeed faced several hurdles of late. Despite an aggressive effort over the summer to place the upcoming version, Windows Mobile 6.5, in a strong competitive position against well-established competitors such as Palm and Apple, Microsoft saw its mobile OS market share decline to around 9 percent in the second quarter of 2009.
Microsoft plans to issue the next generation of the operating system, Mobile 7, in the fourth quarter of 2010. While Mobile 6.5 contains a number of improvements, including expanded touch capabilities and customizable widgets, Mobile 7 will supposedly offer functionality that allows the operating system to compete more heartily against the Apple iPhone and the Palm Pre.
As part of the ramp-up for Mobile 6.5, Microsoft has been encouraging developers to create applications for its Windows Marketplace, with the hope that about 600 of them will be available by the Oct. 6 launch date. Microsoft is attempting to woo developers by encouraging them to price their applications high.
At the beginning of September, Microsoft and various manufacturing partners announced that Mobile 6.5 would roll out on smartphone models from LG Electronics, HTC and Sony Ericsson, for a total of 13 Windows phones by the end of 2010.
Despite these efforts, Microsoft has also been busy porting its mobile functionality onto competitors' smartphone operating systems. On. Aug. 12, Microsoft announced a deal with Nokia that would make a mobile version of Microsoft Office available for Symbian, Nokia's mobile OS.
Immediately following that announcement, representatives of Nokia and Microsoft declined to comment to eWEEK on how the Office deal would affect the two companies' competition for mobile OS market share. Analysts suggested at the time, however, that such an agreement would increase competition with Windows Mobile.
"I don't think the news necessarily hurts OEMs who have historically produced [Windows Mobile] devices, except that they can now expect stronger competition from Nokia," Chris Schreck, an analyst with IMS Research, told eWEEK at the time. "If an OEM was wondering what platforms to support five years from now, the argument for continuing to pay royalties to license Windows Mobile just got a little bit weaker."