Windows Mobile 7.0: Microsoft’s Mobile Web Future depends on it (Part V)
This is the final part of the five part series profiling Microsoft Windows Mobile 7.0. In the earlier posts, i had discussed hardware, software perspectives, developer perspective & platform shortcomings and Microsoft’s service strategy around WinMo 7.0.
For long Microsoft has been sidelined in the smartphone computing space by the Androids and Apples of the world. Windows Mobile 6.5 never gave any hope and as a user and a technoholic, I hope that Microsoft gets its game right with WinMo 7.0. This is not only important for Microsoft but also from an eco-system perspective. The Android juggernaut needs to have some competition from Microsoft to maintain the balance in the industry. Apple is competitive but then it is very elitist and specific. Android seems to be taking the mid end devices fully. Competition from Microsoft space in the mid end could liven up things a bit, which otherwise is becoming Android monopoly.
Summing up the overall strategy
Looking slightly longer term, we think this is an area Microsoft will need to pay special attention to if it wants to join in the looming battle for the Living Room, with mobile devices as a key part of that. Although it has Zune and Windows Media Player, Microsoft has nothing with the market presence and direct link to the consumers’ wallet that iTunes has. It is also not seen as a visionary player in understanding people’s overall media usage.
The WinMo 7.0 release saw a refreshingly humble Microsoft tone for the smartphone world. It spoke of “elegant co-existence” with partners, which will have pleased network operators. Its approach was in stark contrast to the way some manufacturers have approached working with distribution channels.
Microsoft has used its full weight to build an impressive coalition for the launch. This was necessary, given that it is trying to build a strong position from a low starting point. (It provides a good example for other manufacturers with forthcoming operating system launches, such as Nokia and Intel’s MeeGo and RIM’s QNX)
Windows Phone 7 and the way it was brought to market has a good chance oflifting Microsoft’s position in the mobile arena. Microsoft desperately needs this to work well, so that the company becomes relevant again in mobile. The agenda in smartphones is currently being set by Apple and Google, and some observers believe that the battle is really about the future of computing, with the mobile domain as one vital part. Microsoft needs a strong position in mobile to play a part in that debate. To succeed Microsoft will need to see the launch as no more than a key first step and sustain the effort across all fronts. However, even if it does so, we see sales constrained by the high-end hardware specifications and the fact that it is launching into a crowded market.
Mobile is central to the Microsoft’s transformation into a services business. If Microsoft fails in mobile the shift of the wider business beyond a reliance on software licence revenue will certainly falter. More importantly, Apple and Google have proved that the market is still in its infancy, with newcomers still able to cause mass disruption with the right recipe of hardware, software and services. Should Window Phone 7 fail Microsoft arguably has little option but to go back to the drawing board or risk being further marginalised. However, failure at a time when others are becoming increasingly dominant would raise serious doubts about Microsoft’s ability to compete side-by-side in Web services.
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