My Phone And Microsoft's Consumer StrategyMy Phone And Microsoft's Consumer Strategy
Last week Microsoft's <A HREF="http://www.microsoft.com/windowsmobile/myphone/myphone.aspx">My Phone</A> Web site went live prematurely, but confirmed rumors that the software giant had been working on a service for its Windows Mobile devices that would bring some form of synchronization between a Windows Mobile phone and some cloud on the Internet. Will it be enough to compete with the likes of Apple's MobileMe service and entice the average Joe into buying a Windows Mobile phone?
February 10, 2009
Last week Microsoft's My Phone Web site went live prematurely, but confirmed rumors that the software giant had been working on a service for its Windows Mobile devices that would bring some form of synchronization between a Windows Mobile phone and some cloud on the Internet. Will it be enough to compete with the likes of Apple's MobileMe service and entice the average Joe into buying a Windows Mobile phone?Windows Mobile has been geared toward the enterprise. The Server ActiveSync component of Exchange was a project as far back as 2000 from the Windows Mobile device group that would allow the devices to sync wirelessly with a corporate user's e-mail, contacts, and appointments. Since then, it has gotten more sophisticated and feature rich, adding task sync, push e-mail, and the ability to search through e-mails on the server. Microsoft's consumer sync product, though, hasn't changed much during that same time frame. Called ActiveSync on Windows XP or Windows Mobile Device Center on Vista, the core has been rewritten and enhanced to make it more reliable, but in truth, the feature set has actually decreased and most important, there is no over-the-air sync available. What is ironic is if you knew enough about how to route traffic in your home router, you could sync wirelessly with your PC from anywhere in the world up until ActiveSync 4 was released in 2005, when Microsoft blocked the wireless sync capability entirely. Now Microsoft is ready to announce My Phone at Mobile World Congress next week. We'll see if this product will deliver enough features at the right price that will finally allow the average user to divorce their smartphone from their Windows desktop running Outlook. It will have to rival the feature set of Apple's MobileMe service, or perhaps Google's just announced Google Sync for Mobile service to show Microsoft is serious about this space, but at the same time, it has to contend with an issue Apple and Google don't have to worry about. I suspect Microsoft is worried, at least to some degree, of cannibalizing its own users in smaller businesses that may be using a hosted Exchange solution. Based on the preliminary information at the My Phone site, Microsoft is treading very cautiously here as e-mail sync isn't listed, a significant omission. The more I look at this service, the more it seems to be a backup instead of a sync solution, and that will be a day late and a dollar short if that is what Microsoft ultimately delivers. In my opinion, Microsoft should just give this part of the market up to My Phone and not worry about encroachment on the lower end of its Exchange market. My Phone will need to be a robust and powerful service, delivered at the right price, to help woo the average Joe into buying a Windows Mobile device in lieu of the iPhone, or any other phone that Google is supporting with its Google Sync for Mobile service.
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