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Profiling Windows Mobile (Part II): How WinMo lost it….

Posted in Computing and Operating Systems, Mobile Computing, Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on February 22, 2010

How Microsoft blew it with Windows Mobile….

In an earlier post on AUgust 25th, 2009, i had blogged about the feasibility/need of two WinMo platforms: WinMo 6.5 and WinMo 7.0. Winmo 6.5 was released a month later and now that Microsoft has announced the WinMo 7.0, i am revisiting Microsoft’s Smartphone strategy.

Microsoft laid the foundations of a real smartphone OS with Windows CE in 1996 which is at least a decade before Apple launched its iPhone and which predates Google’s existence. The Android and the iPhone are the newest kids in the block but it was always Microsoft’s game to loose. What then was the reason for Microsoft’s failure?

1. Microsoft’s lack of full-bore for a consumer perspective. So then, if there were smartphones and smartphones, it was Apple which created The Smartphone with design and interface innovation. Apple and Google also had the consumer eye for applications like social networking, maps and games.
2. Microsoft’s inability to go open. Microsoft is notorious for its “closed door” approach. That’s very different from Google which thrives on being “Open”. However, it is Apple which provides the contrast here. While it is still “closed”, Apple has opened the doors to developers for innovation.
3. The sad part for Microsoft is that in terms of operating systems, they have a great one, and they had it long before anyone else did. Their first problem is the built-in apps are uninspiring, so that sets a very low bar for developers who are coming to the platform.
4. Also plaguing Microsoft, is segmentation in the hardware ecosystem. Windows Mobile ships with several different manufacturers’ hardware, including HTC, LG and Samsung. The problem? From a developer perspective, that requires coding an app for several phones with different UI styles, buttons and screen sizes. Seeing the first signs of the platform segmentation set in, Google went Nexus One, a device that would be theirs and that would maintain the platform in all its pristine form.
5. The inability to recognize the new smartphone audience is another one of Microsoft’s flaws. Microsoft’s mobile OS history is rooted in personal digital assistants, which were marketed toward enterprise audiences. Today, the smartphone has shifted into the mainstream as a consumer device, and yet Windows Mobile is still largely focused on enterprise features. Microsoft needs to err more on the side of going too far into the consumer segment versus trying to achieve a good balance between enterprise and consumer features at this point

They had everything they needed to execute, to do the right kinds of carrier deals to create an app store, create visual voice mail, touchscreens and so on. They’ve been in this space since the beginning. It was theirs to lose and they lost it.

Going forward, in-spite of all setbacks, Mobility is one of Microsoft’s top investment areas and the mobile strategy is not going to change radically. The fortunes of WinMo will now rest on Windows 7 that it unveiled at the MWC 2010. From the looks, it is going to be a three-some fight to finish between Google, Apple and Microsoft and Microsoft’s cards do-not seem to be particularly strong at this time. We will see If and How would Winmo 7 change the status for Microsoft.

Profiling Apple Apps Store (Part II): Its crowded out there

Posted in Applications and User Interfaces, Value added services and applications by Manas Ganguly on December 10, 2009

Two years ago, the iPhone blew away expectations for what mobile devices are capable of. Apple has the opportunity to do in mobile smartphones what Microsoft did on the desktop: Own the standard platform upon which every popular application is based. The irony of this cannot be lost on Microsoft, which has flubbed its own opportunity to do the same.And mobile devices and applications are the future of the computing industry

As the App Store has matured, so has the need to come up with more sophisticated ways to profit from it. Simply having a great application is not enough. The App Store’s success — as much a surprise to Apple as it has been to competitors — has given rise to a new digital ecosystem. Today, hundreds of software aspirants, from individuals tinkering in their bedrooms late at night to established companies looking for lucrative new revenue streams, are jumping into the App Store fray.And smart-phone manufacturers across the board are trying to make their platforms more attractive and lucrative to bring in the kind of creativity and enthusiasm that Apple has.

It’s easy to see why: Analysts estimate that Apps store generates as much as a billion dollars a year in revenue for Apple and its developers.

However the question increasingly being asked by analysts world-over is “Is it about 20,000 apps or 200,000 apps or is it about changing those 20,000 apps and their deep integration and how they interrelate to one another?” With Apple adding the numbers up briskly, the view about Apps is now beginning to shift. Palm and Research in Motion, say they don’t need an avalanche of applications to compete.

It is much more interesting to change the applications and changing the user experience and really unlocking the promise and the money and revenue opportunity for the ecosystem. Thus the story is changing from too many apps to a limited number of meaningful apps: Apps which integrate into the user’s activities and lives and are used as a necessity.
Most phones will end up being smart-phones. There will be more services and new ways to monetize and more consumption. Growth is a given; it’s just a question of who is going to innovate in the right way to drive that value proposition to capture that growth.

Microsoft, which analysts have criticized for its sluggish approach to the smartphone market, also says it is emphasizing quality for the application store it introduced in October, Windows Marketplace for Mobile.“Our strategy is to look holistically at how we can provide the best all-around user experience,” says Victoria Grady, director of mobile strategy at Microsoft. The Marketplace now has more than 800 apps.

Many developers and analysts think Google’s mobile operating system, most recently placed in the Motorola Droid, may evolve into the fiercest competitor to the iPhone.

Android unique applications are no longer limited to a single device. The growing number of Android-powered phones available on multiple wireless carriers increases the financial opportunity for developers. An year back, Android just had 1 handset which has now increase to close to dozen. Android volumes are going up at a tremendous pace, and the developer ecosystem is seeing that.

Unlike Apple, Google has eschewed a review process, allowing any developer to publish an application to the Android Marketplace, its version of the App Store, instantly. About 14,000 applications are available for Android-powered smartphones.

Apple has another strong advantage: the iPhone offers developers a uniform, standard platform. When, a developer creates an application for the iPhone, he knows how it’s going to run exactly as you tested it on every single model. The same isn’t true for the rest of the smartphones, which have varying screen sizes, processor speeds and form factors.

HOWEVER the competitive landscape shapes up, the App Store phenomenon shows no signs of slowing. IDC, a technology research firm, predicts that the number of iPhone apps will triple next year, fueled by the growing popularity of smartphones and other mobile devices. Along the way, analysts say, the App Store will continue to upend the architecture of the smartphone business and threaten competitors that don’t have vibrant and extensive offerings.

This changes the way the smartphone industry operates. Each handset company would come up with its latest iterations and maybe have the hottest device of the season or not. With apps in the equation, all that changes. It goes from being a product cycle game to a platform game.

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