Two Big Challenges For Windows Mobile - InformationWeek
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Mobile // Mobile Applications
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2/17/2010
10:45 PM
Dave Methvin
Dave Methvin
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Two Big Challenges For Windows Mobile

Microsoft seems to have won some positive comments from the people who have gotten an initial peek at Windows Mobile 7. It really does seem like the company has learned its lessons and made some long-needed improvements to their mobile platform. But there are still plenty of challenges ahead for Microsoft.

Microsoft seems to have won some positive comments from the people who have gotten an initial peek at Windows Mobile 7. It really does seem like the company has learned its lessons and made some long-needed improvements to their mobile platform. But there are still plenty of challenges ahead for Microsoft.The naming of Microsoft's latest mobile OS shows both the sane and silly sides of the company's marketing thought. The full, official name is "Windows Phone 7 Series," as if the problem with their previous offerings was that they needed more words. Heck, some of the devices that will run this software could barely show that much text on one line in a readable font. But the significant element in that name is most likely the "7", since it's already been a very lucky number for Microsoft's desktop operating system. Let's hope they don't try to segment the mobile market with a half-dozen feature variants like "Starter" and "Ultimate".

Yet as Microsoft moves go, this seems like a pretty bold one. The company is being rather coy about some of the details, but it seems like most if not all of the Windows Mobile 6 applications will not work on this new platform. That isn't a no-brainer move for a company who's leader is famous for his rant-like mantra, "Developers, developers, developers, developers." Microsoft was built on backwards compatibility, but has also been severely hampered by it. The fear has always been that both users and developers would desert Microsoft's platforms if they couldn't run their old apps. But in this case, the company probably figures it has more to gain by a clean break. Given their market share, they are probably right.

The first challenge Microsoft will have is to woo back the developers, soothe their hurt feelings, and get them excited enough to deliver new apps by the end of the year. Just today, Microsoft announced that Windows Mobile 6.5 will stay around as Windows Mobile Classic after 7 ships. That may make it even harder to get developers on the new platform if corporate users stay with the "Classic" route for several more years.

Make no mistake, though, the biggest challenge is that Microsoft is arriving incredibly late with their real contender in the mobile platform market. That's why they are willing to open the kimono on a product that won't ship until late this year. By generating some buzz about the goodness of their vaporware, Microsoft hopes to freeze both consumer and business decisions until they can catch up. Yet that also gives platforms like Android and iPhone the chance to look at any good ideas in Windows Mobile 7 and have their own answer ready, perhaps even before Microsoft gets out of the starting gate.

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