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8/19/2009
08:52 AM
Ed Hansberry
Ed Hansberry
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Microsoft's Dual Strategy With Windows Mobile

Microsoft's long awaited Windows Mobile 6.5 operating system is due in just a few months, perhaps by October 1. After that, we were expecting Windows Mobile 7 to ship sometime in 2010, but now there is an indication that in early 2010, there will be a refresh to 6.5. On top of that, 6.5 will remain a viable platform even after 7 starts to ship for lower end hardware.

Microsoft's long awaited Windows Mobile 6.5 operating system is due in just a few months, perhaps by October 1. After that, we were expecting Windows Mobile 7 to ship sometime in 2010, but now there is an indication that in early 2010, there will be a refresh to 6.5. On top of that, 6.5 will remain a viable platform even after 7 starts to ship for lower end hardware.According to DigiTimes, this split will allow Microsoft to compete cost effectively with some of the Android devices by using less expensive hardware and WinMo 6.5. This would presumably be the spring 2010 refreshed version which will have some sort of update to the UI. My guess is that update will give 6.5 a WinMo 7 look. That would leave WinMo 7 available to run on higher end hardware and compete against the iPhone, Pre and upscale Android devices.

My initial reaction to this was there would be confusion in the marketplace when it comes to figuring out what device to buy or what you may have purchased. However, most gadget geeks will be able to easily distinguish between the two platforms once they are shipping side by side and will almost always go for the device that runs 7.

Part of the reason for the change, assuming the rumors are true of course, is that we are now about a year away from WinMo 7 devices shipping, yet as far as I know, only one chassis has been approved by MS for the new platform. Those specs are pretty high end, requiring GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth 2.1, an accelerometer, light sensor and more. That is a pretty beefy device and won't soon be at your carrier for $49 with a two year contract.

MS could of course relax some of those requirements in a future chassis spec, but others, like the minimum processor and RAM requirements, are necessary for the OS to perform. WinMo 6.5 has far lighter requirements.

Of course, the implication here is, I suspect few, if any, 6.5 devices that ship in the next twelve months will be eligible for an upgrade to 7 unless a manufacturer adopts the so-called Chassis 1 spec with the intention of providing a 7 upgrade.

We'll have to wait and see if the rumor reported by DigiTimes turns out to be true. If nothing else, it does show MS is serious about defending itself from attacks by other smartphone platforms at all levels, even if it has the look of being somewhat of a knee jerk reaction. Given enough planning, it would have made more sense to me to have two flavors of WinMo 7 when it launched, a light version that went easier on the hardware specs and the full blown version we've heard so much about. Given the time constraints though, it may be easier for MS to just dress up 6.5 to have a 7.0 look to it.

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