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2/1/2008
04:23 PM
Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren
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If Microsoft And Yahoo Unite, What Will Become Of Windows Mobile?

On the surface, Microsoft and Yahoo have divergent mobile businesses. Microsoft develops and licenses Windows Mobile and associated software to OEMs, which use it to create smartphones. Yahoo has Web services and content optimized for consumption on mobile phones. Is pairing Microsoft with Yahoo (MicroHoo, anyone?) the best way for both companies to create the best mobile platform and services available?

On the surface, Microsoft and Yahoo have divergent mobile businesses. Microsoft develops and licenses Windows Mobile and associated software to OEMs, which use it to create smartphones. Yahoo has Web services and content optimized for consumption on mobile phones. Is pairing Microsoft with Yahoo (MicroHoo, anyone?) the best way for both companies to create the best mobile platform and services available?Yahoo needs help. It has been bleeding market share to rivals on the Web and in the mobile space for what seems an eternity. While Google plows forward full steam with big plans for mobile, Yahoo is banking on its Yahoo! Go platform to keep mobile phone users happy. So far, it isn't creating nearly the waves that Google's mobile services are. I've used it since day one, and even with the recent refresh of the platform it is slow and annoying to use.

Microsoft's Windows Mobile is a fairly successful smartphone platform, though RIM has it beat here in the U.S. in terms of marketshare, and Symbian flat out crushes it in the rest of the world. Windows Mobile is available on a large number of smartphones both large and small, good and bad. The current iteration of WinMo6 is capable, but still leaves something to be desired. RIM's entrenched enterprise presence is a strong indicator that changes are necessary for WinMo. But will adding Yahoo's services into the mix really equal more Windows Mobile smartphones sold?

We know Microsoft is working on Windows Mobile 7 and is even already hard at work on the generation of Windows Mobile after that. The new versions promise big changes for the platform, especially with respect to usability. How can Microsoft use Yahoo's mobile services--and vice versa--to improve its mobile offerings?

Kevin Johnson, president of Microsoft's platforms and services division, said in a prepared statement, "The combined assets and strong services focus of these two companies will enable us to achieve scale economics while reaching R&D critical mass to deliver innovation breakthroughs."

I have to disagree with this statement. Microsoft has billions of dollars sitting in the bank that it could throw at research and development of new products, but it chooses not to. To me, it feels more like Microsoft tinkers with what is already out there rather than starting from scratch--which is what is necessary in Windows Mobile's case. It needs a clean-sheet design, not a re-do. Microsoft already has the capability to do so without Yahoo's help.

Could it take a page (or chapter) from Yahoo's book and learn something new? Sure. Will that be the reality if said deal goes through? I doubt it.

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