Paul Thurrott, who together with Leo Laporte co-hosts “Windows Weekly” on the popular This Week in Tech podcast, recently wrote a critical piece on Microsoft’s latest effort in the mobile space, Windows Mobile 6.5. As you’ll read below, Thurrott isn’t terribly impressed with the offering, and he lays out some convincing arguments which all but predict that Windows Mobile 6.5 will be a flop. I don’t point these out to disparage Microsoft, but rather to cut behind the hype and look at some of the roadblocks Microsoft’s latest mobile OS will be facing in the ever growing smartphone market.
On Windows Mobile 6.5 being a placeholder:
Yes, Microsoft will one day ship a Windows Mobile 7. But that release won’t happen until the end of 2010 at the earliest, meaning we’re looking at first half of 2011 for actual devices. That’s two years from now. This year, Microsoft will instead ship an interim Windows Mobile version, Windows Mobile 6.5, which finally seems to address–at least in some ways–the needs of a consumer market excited by Apple quality and functionality. This OS will be bolstered by an online application store, called Windows Marketplace for Mobile, which is clearly inspired by the iPhone’s popular App Store. And it will be backed by a free online sync service, My Phone, that is equally clearly a copy of Apple’s Mobile Me service (see my review).
Yep, that’s where we’re at. Microsoft is copying Apple again.
Of course, this strategy has often paid off in the past. In fact, the entire PC market can be seen as the cancerous after effects of Microsoft’s earliest example of Apple envy. The question here is whether it can work this time as well.
On the new user interface in Windows Mobile:
Windows Mobile 6.5 features yet another new home screen design but does not significantly alter the majority of sub-screens users will encounter in day-to-day use. That new home screen, as before, acts as a dashboard to the information that is most important to users (new email, calls, and so on). This time around, we get a nonsensical honeycomb design, apparently because Apple cornered the market on a clean grid of beautiful icons. Fair enough. But dive deeper and the ugliness returns.
On Microsoft’s business model of partnering up with multiple phone manufacturers:
On the plus side, the variety of the offerings seems to provide a healthy amount of choice, and consumers can indeed choose between a number of device types, each with unique capabilities, pros, and cons. On the minus side, this choice also leads to confusion, because each of these devices has unique capabilities, pros, and cons…
Worst of all, Microsoft’s partners are slow. Every time Microsoft ships a new Windows Mobile version, it takes several months before the first devices based on that system appear. And even then, those devices aren’t available on all carriers. It’s much longer than a year before a decent selection of devices based on that new system are broadly available.
You can check out the article in its entirety over here. It’s highly recommended, and well worth a read.