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Microsoft Expected to Release Windows Mobile 7 – Too Late to Matter? February 13, 2010

Posted by Peter Varhol in Software platforms, Strategy.

According to the Wall Street Journal and other sources, Microsoft is expected to release the latest version of its operating system for mobile devices – Windows Mobile 7 – at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week (well, starting on the 15th).  Microsoft has been losing market share in on mobile devices over the last eighteen months, as the iPhone and Google Android have been gaining.  The iPhone now has more market share than Windows Mobile (at about 14 percent to 10 percent), and Android is projected to surpass it by the end of 2010.

It’s reasonable to ask if Windows Mobile 7 is too late to the game to do Microsoft any good, with capable and user-pleasing alternatives long-since available.  You can argue, with some justification, that it’s never too late, as long as you’ve created an innovative product that people see as differentiated from, and better than, the competition.  Unfortunately, it seems as though Microsoft has more or less caught up to the competition, rather than leapfrogged it (details won’t be available until the formal introduction).  While Microsoft may announce one or more partnerships with handset manufacturers, it’s unlikely to introduce any new phones at this time.

That will put Windows Mobile even farther behind, especially if it doesn’t include anything radically new.  However, the big problem that Microsoft faces is the lack of third party applications.  It is an odd position for Microsoft, which has always been a leader in evangelizing and supporting developers for the desktop and server Windows platforms.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that its inability to recruit and support mobile application developers is the direct result of its growing culture of sales, and the growing influence of the sales organization in the company.  Steve Ballmer’s infamous developers rant was at a sales meeting (actually, he’s done it several times at annual meetings).

So the sales force is highly cognizant of the value of developers.  But because they are chasing sales, and in most cases corporate or at least business sales, there was, and still is, little reason to pursue mobile customers.  The money just isn’t there.  And if per chance a really good salesperson manages to build up a business on the mobile side, he or she will take the first opportunity to move over to the desktop or enterprise business where there is more money to be made.

This isn’t just Microsoft; all sales-driven organizations work this way.  It’s just surprising that we can refer to Microsoft as such an organization while keeping a straight face.  But I’m convinced that it can’t be avoided in mature software companies.  And that’s what’s going to keep Microsoft firmly on the desktop, as computing expands far beyond it.



1. Is Microsoft Cool Again? « Cutting Edge Computing - March 2, 2010

[…] applications, have made it much less relevant than it could have been.  I also think it’s too late; while being late to the game hasn’t mattered so much for Microsoft in the past, I think it does […]

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