January 14, 2010
Just over a week after the NFL Super Bowl next month, Microsoft (NSDQ:MSFT) will take part in its own "Super Bowl" at the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona, Spain. That's where Microsoft is expected to talk in some level of detail about Windows Mobile 7, a release that could make or break the software giant's future in the mobility market.
Precious little is known about Windows Mobile 7. Last November, Phil Moore, Microsoft's head of mobility in the U.K., let slip that Windows Mobile 7 had been delayed until late 2010 and would include features that appeal both to enterprises and consumers. Earlier this week, The Bright Side Of News, quoting unnamed sources from a number of chipmakers and handset manufacturers, said that Windows Mobile 7 has been "definitely delayed" until 2011.
Officially, Microsoft has danced around questions about Windows Mobile 7 with the dexterity of a Russian gymnast, refusing to confirm or deny the 2011 date -- or any other details.
"We have steadily delivered on our commitment to ship additional features and services through a regular stream of exciting new devices. We're always working on future versions and have nothing new to announce," a Microsoft spokesperson said in response to an e-mail requesting comment on the 2011 release date.
However, there's reason to believe that Microsoft will break the Windows Mobile 7 cone of silence next month at the Mobile World Congress event. In a briefing last week with financial analysts, Robbie Bach, president of the Entertainment and Devices division at Microsoft, was peppered with questions about the timing of Windows Mobile 7's arrival. Being careful not to mention Windows Mobile 7 by name, Bach said Microsoft is aware that Windows Mobile has been too "business focused" and not "modern" enough.
More importantly, Bach hinted that Microsoft will be showing off changes to Windows Mobile at MWC that address these very issues. "I'm certainly confident people are going to see it as something that's differentiated and something that really does move the bar forward, not in an evolutionary way from where we are today, but it's something that feels, looks, acts and performs completely different," Bach told analysts.
In the MWC press materials, Microsoft says it will talk about plans to "align its consumer vision" and "grow opportunities for the mobile industry as a whole." Microsoft will also reveal its plans to meet the challenges of economic uncertainty and intensifying mobile industry competition, according to the press materials.
Whatever Microsoft ends up discussing at MWC, it had better be impressive. Windows Mobile's market share has been steadily slipping for months, and repeated Windows Mobile 7 delays have caused Microsoft's handset partners to shift their development efforts to Google's Android OS. In the Microsoft channel, meanwhile, this has solidified the notion that Windows Mobile has fallen irreparably behind.
"Microsoft just hasn't put enough effort into Windows Mobile development. Windows Mobile 6.5 was an embarrassingly empty update, said Marc Harrison, president of Silicon East, a Microsoft solution provider in Manalapan, N.J. "As I see it, Microsoft's only potential salvation at this point would be to speed up the release of Windows Mobile 7."