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5/26/2010
11:57 AM
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Can Microsoft Save Windows Mobile?

Buzz, it is what every vendor craves. Microsofts present Stephen Ballmer recently realized that Windows Mobile has no buzz, so Robbie Bach, president of the Entertainment and Devices (E&D) division responsible for the device, now has no job.

Buzz, it is what every vendor craves. Microsofts present Stephen Ballmer recently realized that Windows Mobile has no buzz, so Robbie Bach, president of the Entertainment and Devices (E&D) division responsible for the device, now has no job.Ballmer announced Bachs retirement (wink, wink). He had overseen a division responsible for both Microsoft's Xbox gaming console business and its smartphones for about ten years. The Microsoft executive is only 48 years old, so his exit seems to someone elses idea rather than his own. Also instead of replacing Bach, the company split up his responsibilities: Senior Vice President Don Mattrick will continue to lead the Interactive Entertainment Business and Senior Vice President Andy Lees will head up the Mobile Communications Business. Each will report directly to CEO Steve Ballmer.

The change seems to make sense. It is not clear what gaming consoles and cell phones have in common, other than the fact that they are both are sold to consumers, so the union of the two divisions has been a bit puzzling. Dramatic changes were also needed. Windows Mobile has slipped dramatically in the past few years, overtaken by newbies Apples iPhone and Googles Android. Lees has been trying to resurrect the device with a new release, Windows Mobile version 7.0, and handsets relying on the OS may arrive as early as this fall.

Microsoft is clearly playing catch up in the highly volatile cell phone market. Early reports are that the new OS does a good job of matching some of the functionality and ease of use features found in the iPhone and Android. Will that be enough? Probably not. Apple and Google gained significant mindshare by changing the cell landscape rather than just matching what someone else did. While it may be premature, some industry analysts have already been speculating that Microsoft will eventually exit the handset market. So, Bach may not be the first company executive to lose his job because of the cell phone divisions problems.

Long term, small and medium businesses could be hurt by Microsofts inability to deliver a top notch cell phone. While Apple and Google are clearly concentrating on the consumer market, Microsoft has instead tried to meet the demands of business persons. Eventually, that area could be left to Research in Motion, and monopolies benefits vendors, not their customers.

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