# Friday, 22 January 2010

When Windows Mobile 6.0 shipped, Apple’s iPhone was just a rumor and Android was nowhere in sight. How times have changed, now Microsoft has been left for dead in the smartphone/mobile space.

We have been waiting, and waiting, for any news on Windows Mobile 7 from Microsoft. Two rumors leaked this week that lead us to believe that the long, long wait will be over soon.

The first, reported by WMExperts, claims that there will be news on WinMo 7 in the next two months, possibly at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in mid Feb or CTIA in Las Vegas in late March. WMExperts also say that there will be two versions of Windows Mobile 7:

  • Windows Phone 7 Business Edition
  • Windows Phone 7 Media Edition

Also on naming, WMExperts says:

First, it's not Windows Mobile 7 but just "Seven," so that's how we're going to refer to the OS from now on. Also the phrase "Microsoft Zune Phone Experience" may be tossed around.

There is a lot of information out on the site including HD, live TV, XBox integration, Exchange integration, Silverlight, etc. Sync abilities are to multiple devices, the cloud (Live Mesh?) and PCs. I am starting to believe this web site, this all sounds like Microsoft: confused launch, multiple SKUs, names, and bad marketing.

The WSJ’s “All Thins Digital” site has rumor #2: Microsoft is making their own phone. Microsoft, in conjunction with HTC (the maker of the Nexus One, can you spell conflict of interest over in Taiwan?), will release the Microsoft branded “Zune Phone”. Details are sketchy, but the Zune Phone will have HD video and music subscriptions, so it is obviously targeted at the consumer space.

I predict that Microsoft will announce Win Mobile 7 at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in mid-Feb. The MVP summit is the same week in Redmond, so they can also inform the MVPs at the same time. (Steve Ballmer promised us last year we would be one of the “first to know”.) I am also going to speculate that the big developer announcements (Silverlight, etc) and the “Zune Phone” will be at Mix in Las Vegas in March. (Since I will not be at Mix, I suspect that they will give one away to each person attending, just like the PDC Tablet.) They can follow up with more details at CTIA the next week. (Also this is possibly why they moved the Visual Studio Launch to April, not to conflict with CTIA.)

Since Microsoft has waited for so long to release WinMo 7 and has done it with the Apple like secrecy, they have raised the stakes. With the hype around Android and Nexus One, and the sex-appeal of Apple, in order for Microsoft to stay in the game they have to really launch something special.

Indications are that WinMo 7 will build on top of everything Microsoft has done well in the consumer space: XBox and ZuneHD. The ZuneHD platform has gotten rave reviews, so building a phone on top of it makes sense. It would also explain why Microsoft was silent for so long on the phone, they had to first build the ZuneHD. Apparently there is good Twitter and Facebook support and via Live Mesh, you can edit documents on your PC remotely and sync them up. With awesome Office and Exchange support, that is huge for business users.

That all said, is this enough to stay relevant?

I think that Microsoft suffers from the fact that they are not named Apple or Google. Unfair, yes, but that is the game they are in. Media will immediately cover the blogs of the Apple or Google faithful and take away from any PR splash. Also since someone as lowly as I can figure out what is coming and when from Microsoft, expect Google and Apple to trump the day before the announcement. (Apple releases iPhone with SD card will dominate the news!!!)

In order to really shake things up, Microsoft has to take a gamble. They need to complete the revolution that Apple started and Google took to the next level.

As I have said before, the way Americans (and Canadians) buy mobile phones is broken. We buy crippled, subsidized  phones from carriers that lock us into an expensive contract. Apple changed that by making a phone that the carriers had no control over for the first time, however, they still got us locked into one carrier. Google changed the game by giving us an unlocked phone, but in reality you still have to deal with TMobile since the AT&T support is lacking and there is no CDMA version for Verizon yet.

In order for the Zune Phone to be disruptive, it has to be offered as both GSM and CDMA, unlocked, cost $150 (subsidized by Microsoft with Bing ads), and available at Wal Mart and Best Buy. If the phone is sexy enough where tons of people want it, they will go buy it at the local electronics store. Apple and Google will soon follow suit and we will be released from the tyranny of the carriers.

We’ll see what happens…

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Sunday, 24 January 2010 07:04:21 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Nice overview and I mostly agree with you! I have really strong feeling, that during MVP summit they will show us Seven for sure ;)
Tuesday, 26 January 2010 20:13:14 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
(long post but I am making a point here)
Microsoft has failed to be a threat in the consumer space. Windows is a utility that people just have an use. People generally PC's with Windows on it. Look at the consumer sales of Windows over the past 7-10 years. Consumers generally don't run out to buy operating systems. Office in the consumer space generally comes from one of four places (corporate rights for employees to install the software at home, students because Office like the Acrobat reader and is for the most part ubiquitous, pirated copies, from developers who buy MSDN packages). I almost forgot trials preinstalled on some new PC's.

Point I am making is Microsoft does not have a consumer following like Apple and Google. They get grandfathered into the consumer space from past success or success in other areas.

Blackberry owns the Enterprise, iPhone owns the consumer smart phone market and MP3 market. Although services like Pandora seem to be changing the game. Zune has failed (too little, to late, to small of an audience). Windows OS does not appeal generally speaking to mainstream consumers (except us gadget guys friendly to MSFT). A Zune/WinMo device will need a lot more than cool technology, and the name Microsoft to succeed. It will need new creative innovation to win the teen and twenty something crowd. Instead of some new lipstick and another facebook application. Yes, a compelling app market will help, but it simply will not be enough to make noise in the consumer market. What will make the 12-26 year old crowd really want a Win/Zune device over a DROID based phone or a new generation iPhone? That is the multi million/billion dollar question.
Ed FErron
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