An interview between Andy Lees, Microsoft Senior Vice President of the Mobile Communications Business unit, and CNET revealed how Microsoft is planning to revive the flagging fortunes of Windows Mobile. New competitors such as the Apple iPhone, Google Android, and the just announced Palm webOS have highlighted how Windows Mobile has seen little innovation in the last few years.
According to Lees, Windows Mobile’s woes are due to at least two issues. First, Microsoft focused on ensuring that Windows Mobile would run on a wide range of devices, thereby preventing it from using more advanced hardware or technologies. Second, its roots as a PDA operating system have also imposed their own limitations. Unlike more recent mobile operating systems which were designed with telephony from the start, Microsoft’s offering dates back to the days of PDAs with no such capabilities. Telephony was essentially bolted on to the operating system later on.
Lees took over the Windows Mobile unit over a year ago and, since then, has been planning a new roadmap for the mobile operating system. That strategy will begin to come to light at the upcoming Mobile World Congress. Without divulging any details, Lees confirmed that there will be news about the operating system and about a new push towards services. It is widely expected that Microsoft will announce Windows Mobile 6.5 and services such as SkyBox, an OTA synchronization tool, and SkyMarket, a mobile marketplace.
Lees’ strategy, which will play out over the next 12 to 18 months, also promises to offer closer partnerships with device manufacturers, new technologies that the company will take advantage of and a web browsing experience that Lees promises will be better than that of the iPhone or the Palm Pre.
I can only hope that Microsoft’s new offerings will be offered sooner than later. If they do take 12 to 18 months to come to market, Microsoft could find itself once again in a catch-up position because it’s sure that none of its competitors will be waiting for Microsoft to catch up.