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Windows Mobile Still Set To Dominate iPhone?

With all the iPhone talk recently, it's easy to forget about the tried-and-true nature of mobile operating systems like Microsoft's Windows Mobile. The fact that it's meant to be used across several devices and manufacturers still makes more sense than limiting itself to one device like Apple's iPhone OS. With an
July 16, 2008
With all the iPhone talk recently, it's easy to forget about the tried-and-true nature of mobile operating systems like Microsoft's Windows Mobile. The fact that it's meant to be used across several devices and manufacturers still makes more sense than limiting itself to one device like Apple's iPhone OS. With an Android-like distribution method, they're still in the best position to dominate the space.While the iPhone has no doubt revolutionized the way we use mobile devices and the mobile Web, I have to wonder why they limited themselves so much. A user who wants to enjoy all the benefits of an iPhone has to agree to go only with AT&T, agree to a high-priced data plan, and be locked into one device for at least a year. On the other hand, Windows Mobile can be used on a variety of devices, on any network carrier, and can be enhanced by different device's functionality like GPS and Wi-Fi support.

Even after more than a year, iPhone sales are nowhere close to what Windows Mobile generates. During this year's first quarter, more than 4.5 million Windows Mobile devices were shipped compared with only 1.7 million iPhones in the same time period. With upcoming improvements to Windows Mobile in the near future, it will be in a better position to compete with other offerings and the upcoming Android OS that will share its multidevice distribution model.

Andy Lees, a Windows Mobile executive with Microsoft, outlined plans for the OS at a Houston conference recently, stating that even though Apple has a forecast 26% growth in the smartphone market, he believes the IDC has significantly underestimated the opportunity, citing factors such as Moore's Law, an increased profit potential for carriers, and new Internet-based mobile applications.

Soon, Windows Mobile will be introducing a new Internet Explorer 6 that will make for a full Web experience similar to the iPhone, not a down-sized version that we're all used to with WM. Also, users will be able to run Ajax-based applications via IE that won't run on competing Apple, Nokia, or Google Android-based smartphones.

From a future-development standpoint, Windows Mobile might provide the best opportunity, only because it's so well-rooted within the mobile community. Developers have use of one of the most robust, and easily extensible mobile platforms available, as well as one of the largest supported development communities around. While this might change with the maturing of Apple's App Store, and Google's "open-sourced" Android, it's still the best platform to get your work noticed for the time being.

I understand that Apple's initiative in creating the iPhone was to create an all-in-one device that's both visually appealing, which is Apple's style, and easy to use, like Apple's desktop companions, but I still think the route of building and growing an OS instead of being limited to one device is the smart way to plan for the future of mobile.

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Brian T. Horowitz, Contributing Reporter
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Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing