Microsoft Mobile 7 Release Date Remains Unclear

Microsoft Mobile 7 could be delayed until 2011, according to the latest rumors circulating online, despite suggestions from within Microsoft that the mobile operating system could make its debut at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next month. Various smartphone companies refused to comment on a Mobile 7 production schedule when contacted by eWEEK. Microsoft may be relying on Mobile 7 to reverse its continued market-share erosion in the smartphone space, where it faces stiff competition from Apple's iPhone, RIM's BlackBerry, and other players.

Will Microsoft delay Windows Mobile 7, its operating system for smartphones, until 2011?

Rumors circulating online this week seemed to suggest that could be the case. Much of that scuttlebutt drew its fuel from a report published on the site Bright Side of News, which said: "We spoke with representatives from Microsoft, Lenovo, Qualcomm, TI, Nokia, nVidia [sp], HTC and many more and they all had just one message-Windows Mobile 7 is delayed until 2011 and the focus is shifting to Google Android and even Chrome OS."

That site's report, and the rumors circulating as a result of it, seemed to contradict intimations made by Microsoft over the past few months that Mobile 7 would emerge into the public eye sometime in 2010.

At last week's 2010 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Microsoft displayed several smartphones in its booth running Mobile 6.5, even as CEO Steve Ballmer failed to mention Mobile 7 during his Jan. 6 keynote address.

But during a separate news conference during the show, Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft's entertainment and devices division, seemed to suggest that Mobile 7 would make an appearance at February's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

"We are going to have some new things that we'll talk about at Mobile World Congress," Bach said in response to a question about the timing of Mobile 7, according to a transcript released by Microsoft. "When you look at the product, I'm sort of like, I have the luxury of having seen it, to be able to look at it and played with it a little bit, but I'm certainly confident people are going to see it as something that's differentiated."

Bach added that the "product" was something "that feels, looks, acts and performs completely different."

Reports from 2009 suggested that Mobile 7 could make an appearance sometime in late 2010, as part of Microsoft's broader strategy to reverse its eroding mobile OS market-share in the face of stiff competition from RIM's BlackBerry, Apple's iPhone, and others. However, Microsoft has repeatedly refused comment to eWEEK about any Mobile 7-related news or rumors, except to say: "We're always working on future versions and have nothing new to announce."

A Nokia representative, Joseph Gallo, responded to eWEEK's query about the Bright Side of News report by saying:

"Per our policy, we do not comment on competitor announcements, rumors or speculation. As Windows Mobile is not our smartphone operating system of choice, we are not able to comment."

HTC also responded to a query about whether Microsoft had committed to delivering Mobile 7 for production sometime in 2010.

"We are strongly committed to both Windows Mobile and Android as part of our overall product lineup," Keith Nowak, a spokesperson for HTC, told eWEEK in a Jan. 14 email, "and HTC will continue to build a robust portfolio of devices on both of these operating systems going forward."

Nowak added that HTC plans to introduce a number of smartphones running Windows Mobile during 2010, but declined to elaborate which version of the operating system would be running on those devices.

When contacted by eWEEK, Theo Valich, author of the original Bright Side of News article, said in an email: "This is not the matter of Microsoft delaying the part into 2011, this is the question of, if they come in 2010, who will exactly carry them."

In elaborating on the background to his own story, Valich said that he had spoken to executives at several companies, and, "What I was told was that Microsoft kept on delaying the release of the operating system and that they could not commit sticking to WM platform given the multi-million dollar investments they had." Those companies, he added, had begun shifting more personnel to working on smartphones that incorporate the Google Android OS.

In the meantime, Microsoft and at least one manufacturing partner, Sony Ericsson, plan on producing a smartphone with Windows Mobile 6.5.3, reportedly an incremental improvement on the Mobile 6.5 that made its debut in October 2009.

Speaking on strict background, an employee for Nokia, who declined to use his name because he wanted to defer to the company's official statement, termed the Bright Side of News report "strange." Until next month's Mobile World Congress, the question of Mobile 7's ultimate release date will be left up in the air-and meanwhile, yet another round of rumors suggests that the operating system making its debut during the conference will be Mobile 6.6.