Windows Mobile is in trouble. Microsoft’s mobile operating system, which once did a fine job of providing enterprise users with a viable experience, has quickly faltered as RIM’s BlackBerry OS, Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android platform have all found ways to appeal to customer desire far more effectively.
Part of that decline is due to Microsoft’s poor strategy. The company believed that status quo would win the day and stuck with an outdated interface to compete with software that is far more intuitive. It was a major blunder that, so far, Microsoft hasn’t been able to overcome.
Unfortunately, things could be getting worse. As the software giant prepares to release Windows Mobile 6.5.3, customers are still wondering when Microsoft will launch Windows Mobile 7. A recent report claims Microsoft might be forced to delay Windows Mobile 7 to 2011. So far, there seems to be little foundation for this report, since Microsoft and its vendors have said nothing about such a long delay. For now, it’s purely a rumor.
But what if Microsoft did in fact delay Windows Mobile 7 to 2011? Considering the software giant hasn’t made any promises about the software’s launch, it is certainly possible that it could happen. If it does, it could spell serious trouble for Microsoft’s mobile efforts. In fact, such a delay might even destroy any chance of Microsoft making a comeback in the mobile market.
Microsoft must release Windows Mobile 7 in 2010. Here’s why:
1. A new generation of phones
By delaying Windows Mobile 7’s release to 2011, Microsoft will put itself in an even less tenable position. Apple, Google’s partners and Research in Motion will likely release new devices this year that improve upon current offerings. The gap between a new Windows Mobile 7 device and this generation’s group of phones is substantial. But by waiting a year, Microsoft will find itself even further behind.
2. Windows Mobile 6.5 is abysmal
Although Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer spent considerable time singing its praises at CES, Windows Mobile 6.5 is in no way a viable competitor to the operating systems of the iPhone, BlackBerry or any Android phone. Any customer who compares a Windows Mobile 6.5 device with an iPhone or a BlackBerry will be disappointed by Microsoft’s offering. Does Microsoft really want that disappointment to last another year?
3. Users want touch screens
If the iPhone and Android devices have shown anything, it’s that many users want to use a touch-screen display. Granted, there are still some who prefer a physical keyboard and no touch screen, but the sales growth of touch-screen phones reflects many customers’ preference for controlling devices with their fingers. Windows Mobile 6.5 can’t deliver that experience. Windows Mobile 7 will. The longer Microsoft waits to release the new software, the more likely that users will opt for other software.
4. It has been delayed enough
If Ballmer had his wish, Windows Mobile 7 would have already hit store shelves. Speaking at an event last September, Ballmer said mistakes had been made with Windows Mobile and he wished the new software had already launched. Considering how mad Ballmer was in 2009, what would he (and his shareholders) think if Windows Mobile 7 is delayed another year? Enough is enough, Microsoft. Get the software out as soon as possible.
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5. The enterprise is looking elsewhere
Although Windows Mobile was once closer to ubiquitous in the enterprise, it’s now quickly losing ground to the BlackBerry and the iPhone. Microsoft must stop the bleeding now or face the possibility of losing all its influence in the corporate space. It could happen-especially if Windows Mobile 7 doesn’t launch until 2011.
6. Relevance is important
There’s little debating that Windows Mobile is far less relevant than it once was. The iPhone, BlackBerry and Android devices have pushed Windows Mobile to the back of the pack. If Microsoft waits another year, it will find itself even farther behind the competition, making it even more difficult to catch up. Waiting is simply not an option.
7. Market share is slipping
Windows Mobile’s market share is declining compared with where it was just a few years ago. The longer Microsoft keeps an inferior product on the market, the greater the chance that its market share will continue to slide. Consumers and enterprise customers are looking for a next-generation phone. If Microsoft’s software can’t accommodate such a device, there’s little chance of Windows Mobile regaining lost market share.
8. It will help Windows 7
Windows Mobile 7 could help Microsoft’s sales of Windows 7. Historically, Windows Mobile and Windows have worked quite well together. The software was especially handy for enterprise users who wanted to be able to quickly sync content between office computer and mobile phone. If Windows Mobile 7 will be a viable alternative to software already available on the market and it will work best with Windows 7, it could push some companies to finally adopt Microsoft’s latest operating system. That’s an opportunity that Microsoft shouldn’t miss.
9. More fodder for Apple and Google
Microsoft is in the middle of a major marketing battle with Apple and Google. The last thing Microsoft needs right now is to supply Apple and Google with the ammunition they want to make Microsoft look worse than it already does. If Windows Mobile isn’t released until 2011, it will give both companies a full year to highlight all of Windows Mobile’s shortcomings. That’s simply unacceptable.
10. Vendor response
It’s important to remember when considering any impact Windows Mobile could have on the market that it’s only software. In order for users to get their hands on the new operating system, they need to buy a phone from a third-party vendor that runs the new OS. For too long, Windows Mobile has been the “also-ran” in the market. Meanwhile, vendors are wondering if and when they will see sales grow. That probably won’t happen until Microsoft finally releases Windows Mobile 7. The longer Microsoft waits to release the operating system, the less likely that vendors will be willing to stick it out. They might opt to leave the mobile space altogether or, even worse for Microsoft, start offering phones with Android installed.
There’s a lot riding on Windows Mobile 7. The sooner Microsoft can get it out to customers, the better.