Motorola may re-embrace the idea of releasing smartphones running a Windows operating system, according to comments made by one of the company's CEOs to The Wall Street Journal. The news potentially bodes well for the adoption of the Windows Phone 7 Series, which was announced in a high-profile press conference in Barcelona, Spain, on Feb. 15, by phone manufacturers.
"I'm open to it," Sanjay Jha, Motorola's co-CEO, told the newspaper in response to a question about the company's willingness to release phones running Windows software. "I think I need diversity in our portfolio." Motorola is also looking to expand into new areas, the Feb. 17 article suggested, with the company planning to port its Motoblur social-networking application from phones to television set-top boxes.
Although Motorola has produced Windows Mobile devices in the past, it has lately focused on pushing phones that run the Google Android operating system, including the Motorola Droid, which enjoyed solid sales and mostly positive reviews after its release in November 2009.
Unlike Google Android devices or the iPhone, which emphasize individual apps, Windows Phone 7 Series focuses its user interface on "hubs," which aggregate Web and application content into categories such as "People," "Pictures," "Office," "Music & Video" and "Games." The touch-screen user interface and consumer sheen of the new mobile operating system are heavily reminiscent of the Zune HD, Microsoft's portable media player.
On Feb. 18, the WMPoweruser blog posted what it called leaked Windows Phone 7 development documents, which indicated that the software is built on Silverlight, XNA and the .NET compact framework. Microsoft will presumably flesh out those language details for developers at March's MIX conference.
During the Feb. 15 press conference in Barcelona, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer indicated that Microsoft would continue to support its previous smartphone operating system, Windows Mobile 6.5, even after the release of Windows Phone 7 Series. However, Microsoft subsequently refused to confirm reports that Mobile 6.5 would eventually be rebranded as Windows Phone Classic.
Microsoft plans to roll out Windows Phone 7 Series devices at some point before the 2010 holiday season. Analysts and pundits seem to feel that Microsoft is drawing a line in the proverbial sand with this recent release, with a radical alteration seen as possibly the only way for the company to halt or even reverse its mobile market share declines. Vital to that road map could be ensuring that devices running the operating system appeal to both the enterprise and SMBs (small and midsize businesses).
"The main difference is that companies like Microsoft see the smartphone as a device that can accomplish work; Apple is on the other side, saying that we're going to make media devices that you can use to do most of the things you need to do for work," Charles King, an analyst with Pund-It Research, said in a Feb. 17 interview with eWEEK. "Microsoft is drawing a firm line between what their next-generation smartphones are doing and what other people are doing."
Whether Microsoft's strategy provides enough of a competitive differentiator to gain market share back from the likes of Google Android and the iPhone remains to be seen.