back to article Microsoft to encircle Google and Apple with Windows Mobile split

When a person says they like something, they might also add: "What's not to like?" When Steve Ballmer said he liked Microsoft's Windows Mobile strategy a few years back, you had to ask "what strategy"? Microsoft's chief executive told CNBC-TV "I like our strategy, I like it a lot" while laughing off Apple's iPhone. Ballmer …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Developers Driving the Market?

    This explains all the new phones that are really great at things I don't need.

  2. Ian Davies

    Are they serious?

    "use Windows Mobile 6.5 to onramp iPhone converts to Windows Mobile 7.0"

    How in the name of <$DEITY> would an iPhone user be tempted to convert? WM 6.5 isn't even going to be as good as iPhone OS 1.0. WM 7 isn't out for at least another year but will only be as good as iPhone OS 3.0 is now, if MS is lucky. By then, of course, we'll have iPhone OS 4.0 and it won't matter anyway.

    Uncle Fester's guffawing at the iPhone when it was announced just keeps getting funnier and funnier the more MS thrashes about without a fecking clue of what to do.

  3. Uncle Bernie

    what do you expect?

    If your CEO was a bloated, clueless buffoon, you too would have no strategy, no vision, and copy everything everybody else did. Microsoft appeals only to people in trailer parks, who unfortunately cannot afford a smart phone.

    Insurance companies are more creative than Microsoft. As long as Jobs is running Apple, they have no hope.

    I would love for one of the otherwise spineless reporters of the world to find out how many Microsoft employees own Apple products.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It is a strategy?

    It is a wait and see strategy?

    If completed well it will aim to top what is good and better what is poor.

    If not completed well it will result in Zune-ified Windows Mobile devices.

  5. davebarnes

    Nonsensical "strategy"

    Very good analysis and reporting.

    There is no strategy.

    Someone who wants an iPhone (there's an app for that) is not going to buy a Windows Mobile phone no matter what the price.

    Someone who wants a Crackberry is not going to buy a Windows Mobile phone no matter what the price.

    In 10 years, 3/4 the phones in world will be smart phones.

    Apple, RIM, Google, Palm, Nokia and Microsoft are the current players.

    In 3 years, Microsoft will be gone along with one other.

    In the dumb phone market you can have many players as there is no ecosystem to construct and support.

    In the smart phone market, there will be fewer than 5. (There might be one just for China as the market is large enough.)

  6. Ty
    Jobs Halo


    It's great fun watching M$ squirm and die. :)

  7. Andy ORourke

    Am I the only one......

    Who read the heading as:

    "Microsoft to encircle Google and Apple with Windows Mobile SPIT"

    visions of Balmer hopping around gobbing all over the place :-)

  8. Doug Glass

    Dear Stevie,

    Too little; too late.

  9. Giles Jones Gold badge

    A pet project

    At times I just think Windows Mobile is just a bit of fun for someone at Microsoft. Just a bit of a hobby for their developers.

    Of course what will happen is mobile tech will grow and grow to the point where it will have a large mobile internet base and Microsoft will wonder where they went wrong and buy up every start up company going to try to catch up.

    They may even try to buy a large phone company, HTC would be a prime candidate, but expensive.

  10. adnim

    Why don't they

    just stick to what they are good at, what they do that is innovative, what they do that makes consumers happy? Oh wait a minute, I withdraw that question.

  11. Naadir Jeewa

    MS strategy almost makes sense...

    I think what Microsoft is attempting to do is this:

    WM 6.5 as natural successor to Windows CE, since this is what faces competition from Android as an embedded OS platform.

    WM7 is more mobile centric, possibly with less backwards compatibility, and not designed to encompass both mobile phones and embedded applications.

  12. Goat Jam
    Jobs Horns

    Ballmer makes Gates look like a visionary

    I never thought Bill had much of a clue. He may have created one of the largest companies on Earth but he did that on the back of some extremely good luck, fortunate timing and a couple of shrewd business decisions. He kept on top by being utterly ruthless and crushing all competition.

    But for all that he never really looked like he knew what he was doing in a Grand Vision sort of way. He is diametrically opposite to his arch nemesis from Cupertino who once described Microsoft (and therefore Bill) as having "no taste". And this was BEFORE Bill unleashed his Zune on the world.

    However, now that Ballmer is at the helm in Redmond we have a CEO who is bravely exploring new depths of cluelessness. You get the impression that Uncle Fester has surrounded himself with a bunch of tech marketeers in italian suits who keep on promising him that this latest idea will finally be the one that beats apple/google and he doesn't have enough of a clue to know any better so he says "It'd better be or I'll start throwing chairs" and promptly steps out to do some interviews where he can proclaim how much he likes Microsofts Strategy and make disparaging remarks about his competitors products.

    Personally, I hope they never lose Ballmer. Microsoft with a clue could be quite formidable and not the laughing stock that it currently is.

    ALl we need now is a goddam Ballmer icon. I suggest a picture of him with a lightbulb in his mouth ala his namesake from the Addams Family.

    Evil Jobs, because some people seem to think it is a Ballmer icon

  13. Drak

    ok, lets go through this again

    Nokia, Palm, and MS have been cramming enterprise apps down the users throat for the past 10 years and giving these mobile OS's the insulting term 'smartphone'. Finally Apple comes a long and finally gives the user what they want which is a vast diversity of useful apps. Nokia, Palm and MS respond by giving users a touch screen.

    There is an answer my friends, the Pandora:

    uses open hardware so their is no proprietary drivers and so will run about any OS that compiles on an ARM processor. long suckers

  14. barfridge

    re: MS Innovation?

    That my friend is an oxymoron.

    From day 1 they have acquired, purchased or misappropriated most of their tech, by any means necessary

    /beer, cos it's 10am here on a Thursday.

  15. TeeCee Gold badge

    Apple are not the competition.

    The iPhone is a walled garden with its own hardware, apps and such. It's a niche product. A bloody big niche I'll grant, but a niche all the same. There's only so much market share it can pick up as the OEMs can't use the O/S on their products and they all want to stay in business. Also, being controlled in toto by Apple it's utterly damned useless to anyone who isn't interested in being locked in tighter than a gnat's chuff.

    RIM are not the competition. They're a big fish in a small pond of their own devising, i.e. business types who want a Blackberry. The instant someone comes up with a draft standard for cross-platform push email and MS, Google, Nokia and Apple say they'll move to it, it'll be time to dump your RIM stock. Fast.

    MS should be bloody terrified of LiMo and Android though, especially LiMo as like WinMo it doesn't have its Maker breathing down your neck all the time you use it. It's yours to f*** with as you wish. If MS don't maintain their OEM tie-ins they're going to be in the poo big time. The move of HTC to shipping Android units must have really stung.

  16. Dominic Cioccarelli

    When it worked...

    "Microsoft has provided email, web browsing, and music in Windows on handsets right up there with everyone else and it has built market share. Windows Mobile worked for business users, and Microsoft kept up with the competition."

    Possibly, but only when when it worked.... Windows Mobile would have to be the most bug ridden, unresponsive and counter-intuitive platform I have ever seen. It stalls, freezes and has so many permutations (which may or may not work with different pieces of hardware) that simple upgrades to the OS are rarely an option. Support seems to lie somewhere between MS and the hardware vendors, with neither filling in the blanks.

    A common OS for a PC is one thing, bringing the lowest common denominator to an evolving industry like the mobile phone / pocket PC market is not a good idea and (at least in the case of MS) has not been properly thought through.


  17. DR

    microsoft don't have a strategy

    Microsoft don't have a strategy, at least not a good one.

    the part where their strategy fails is in the marketing.

    Apple pretty much fail as anything other than a design and marketing company, they don't excel on hardware manufacturing, or even having really cool and unique ideas/latest technology, what apple do well that Microsoft don't is getting people to want to buy their products.

    I often feel like either I'm going mad or the world around me is going mad, when Apple put adverts on TV saying you can install applications on your phone, you can copy and paste, you can send emails etc I sit there thinking so fucking what, I've been able to do that on my phone for the past three years, (an HTC/windows mobile phone).

    And that's the difference, to have a windows mobile phone you'd have either had to see one working and actually thought it looked cool, or have swallowed a MS business marketing campaign...

    the question is where were the microsoft ads on TV saying, wow, look at this really fucking cool thing that you can do?

    They weren't there!

    MS missed a trick on this, their platform was essentially open, and there is no reason that they couldn't have setup an apps store equivalent, if microsoft had a strategy it should have been to point out the strengths it had over the iphone OS last year, or the year before... whenever the iphone came out that couldn't copy and paste, couldn't send mms, didn't have blue tooth etc etc etc.

    Trouble is that the iphone was/is popular. the only strategy that would have worked would have been to destroy it in it's infancy. by offering a more mature product that did address some of the short comings.

    I can only assume that the reason for this is that MS make the software not the phone, so they don't push the phones as they consider this the hardware manufacturers job, or the operators job... the trouble is that by saving a few million dollars on not running a decent advertising campaign, they've likely lost a few hundred million dollars of sales that have gone to apple and allowed them to develop a product that is now at least as good, if not better than the offerings from MS

  18. ThomH

    Is no-one going to defend Microsoft?

    No? No one?

  19. Goat Jam


    "Apple pretty much fail as anything other than a design and marketing company,"

    Errr, OK, I can go with that.

    "they don't excel on hardware manufacturing,"

    Well, that may in fact be because they don't actually DO hardware manufacturing, but let's let that one slide.

    " or even having really cool and unique ideas/latest technology, "

    Ummm, OK.

    "what apple do well that Microsoft don't is getting people to want to buy their products."

    Oh, is that it? How do they do that exactly? You know, seeing as that they don't actually have "cool or unique" products and all. Although I can't for the life of me recall a single product that was even remotely similar to the iphone before it launched I will bow to your obviously greater knowledge in this regard.

    So, seeing as they are just another boring PC and phone maker amongst many, please explain what this magic ingredient is that "gets people to buy their products".

    Is it just that they have a good ad agency perhaps? Please elaborate, enquiring minds want to know!


    Steven Ballmer

  20. Anonymous Coward

    @Defending Microsoft

    I think Naadir has it right, actually. Everyone who's owned, used or developed for WM5/6 knows the platform is fundementally flawed when it comes to the kind of GUI and features that iPhone and Android (and Pre?) offer. The problem is, MS have millions of users and thousands of apps they need to support and provide backward compatibility for.

    So it makes total sense for them to produce a snazzy, finger-touch (i.e., non-stylus) friendly version of WM6.1 which will keep their (albeit shrinking) chunk of the market ticking over while they rebuild their Mobile platform from the ground up - possibly (probably?) discarding any pointless hopes of backward compatibility for existing applications.

    If this is what they're planning, then they have it right, and might succeed (in the same way as the XBox has succeeded - whilst not quite eclipsing the PS platform, it's shown a lot of the ne'er-do-wells that actually it works and in some cases can produce superior games).

    Of course if this isn't their plan, and Wm7 is going to be another revision of the WinCE platform after WM6.5, then MS will have carried off one of the most brilliant instances of epic Fail for a modern technology company. We'll see.

    For me, though, I'll stick with Android (and iPhone, if they allow multi-processes). MS will have to do an awful lot of good things with a (completely re-engineered) WinMo7 platform in order to alleviate the post-traumatic stress disorder I'm still going through after a few years of battling with their mobile platform.

  21. SlabMan

    For the folks that find the iPhone too limiting...

    OK, we know you can't install open source codecs or apps from indie developer's websites, can't invoke a command line, can't reflash the firmware, etc. Hey - it wasn't designed for you. It was designed for consumers who won't read an instruction manual, so that they could buy and use it as easily as any other piece of true consumer kit. And guess what - the consumers liked it. The average buyer is able to make phone calls and install and use a selection from thousands of different apps. Plus, the well-implemented multi-touch is driving some genune app innovation - primarily fun and leisure apps but what's wrong with that? It's a personal device after all, not a nerd's penis substitute or libertarian manifesto symbol. The average user doesn't rejoice in having bragging rights from mastering some kludgey and inconsistent interface. Imagine how it will be when this approach permeates personal computing. There'll be no more need for unwashed social misfits from IT to come and sneer at the users' pathetic PC fails. Microsoft reeks of that socially challenged patronising view that their customers are the IT department, and that they can get away with patronising the end-users for their failure to understand. In the boom time, that worked. In the recession, they'll have to try harder

  22. Jamie Kitson

    Onramp is not a word, let alone a verb.

    Seriously, I looked it up.

  23. Daniel 1

    'Microsoft encircles the waggons', more like

    I knew some people who worked in Windows Mobile: they couldn't get the Hell out of there fast enough. Windows is a crappy divison to work in, anyway, but, for almost a decade, Mobile has had Career Death Effect on anyone who let it touch them for too long. Microsoft's culture has long been one of denial, regarding the future of hand held devices, so the Mobile Team was almost predestined to fail, as a result. The only ones left on Mobile, now, are the ones who cannot get interviews with other teams (and other teams don't want anyone from Mobile, in case it's infectious).

  24. Chewy


    Possibly the only thing that WM has in its favour but now that it is supported by the iPhone it is no longer an advantage with integration with Exchange. As for the WM phones themselves, no matter how much HTC skin the interface there are parts that look like Windows 3.11 with tiny close buttons which means a stylus is a must.

    MS are out of the race with Apple and Google tempting application developers. MS will need pull some pretty special tricks out the bag if they wish to claw their way back, but I cannot see that happening.

  25. JS Greenwood
    Jobs Horns

    Mobile strategy - going free

    It's depressing how, in the *general case*, as companies grow, their ability to come up with simple, cohesive strategies that might actually work disappears in the levels of middle management.

    This one should be a fairly simple no-brainer for Microsoft.

    If they want a short term stop gap: License all the Touch-Flo gubbins from HTC. Patch WinMo 6.x with that with immediate effect to avoid market erosion, and extend it to include some of the screens that it doesn't reach to yet.

    Long term strategy:

    * Something needs doing with the underlying OS to WinMo. The whole multi-tasking, real-time angle of it needs sorting. If only by patching it up such that the UI is always responsive with a decent queuing mechanism in the first instance. Set a team to sort that core platform now.

    * The user-interface/application layer needs binning in its current form. Get a new platform for that sorted, based on Silverlight/WPF, with the right kind of touch-support. In terms of backwards compatibility, you've got abstraction to a degree with .NET CF apps, so lets keep compatibility for those, but a bit more gloss to the display of them through a framework point release. "Legacy" C++, etc. apps I'd not declare compatibility for. Trying to support a decade or more of history will kill any initiative and impetus here. Maybe have some "unofficial" support here; open sourcing of the libraries, emulation/sandboxing if required, etc. But I'd have that as something not allowed to impede the progress of the "new" platform.

    * Get somebody that REALLY understands usability to design a the UX layer to it. Not just another port of an outdated desktop interaction concept. And get a proper set of guidelines pulled together here for other developers to follow.

    * Developing for WinMo is a mixed bag. The .NET piece gives a great programming model, but it'll need extending. The right kind of tooling for the UIs (i.e. add support in Expression), and the right kind of desktop emulation is critical. As is *giving away a full featured development environment* There also needs to be a much simpler way of writing "trivial" applications - widgets/applets/whatever you want to call them. Some kind of integrated "data" framework would be a nice touch that could plug into the usual lifestyle data feeds, etc. and have alerting capabilities.

    * Devices. Building up a good community of partners building devices is all well and good, but it's (1) a bit confusing to users, (2) doesn't guarantee any must-have device. I'd keep it as an OS to run on many devices, but firstly get a LOT more rigid with testing and approval. WinMo hangs too often, plain and simple. Part of that's likely to be device-related (and a bigger part software related, admittedly). At least crack the first one. Secondly, I'd create a halo device. Get somebody that REALLY understands industrial design, and have the most beautiful, polished, non-committee-designed device created.

    * Brand. Don't call it Windows whatever you do. I'm sure it's no coincidence that fingerprints and Windows never go well together. ;)

    * Get the AppStore(TM) piece right. Have two areas of the AppStore - one for approved apps, one for "untested". Don't stop people installing untested/unapproved apps, but make sure there are a couple of hoops to jump through to put off an inexperienced user given there's more potential for causing device lock-ups, etc. For "tested" applications, keep the bar fairly high. Set some decent developer competitions up to get the community going. Make all the Tech Previews/Betas publicly available and a pre-certification process in place to get all the .NET CF apps tested to populate the AppStore in advance. In terms of charging mechanisms, provide both an "application purchase" and a "micro-purchase" mechanism. The latter being APIs developers can integrate with for ongoing payments (and an OS that supports this from the ground up). Have a "regular subscription" payment mechanism built into the app-store, too. I.e. give the developers and publishers models they can work with. Note that I'm advocating an Apple style, centralised AppStore here. I'd not stop people doing manual installs, but I'd provide this for the average consumer.

    * Do the corporate piece right - make sure the business device angle is well and truly covered still - in terms of Exchange integration, device security and remote management, and support for custom-developed corporate applications. I'd do the corporate PR piece, too - getting a default reporting platform client with whizzy graphs and alerts on it. This is (scarily) enough to seed it from the exec level down in a lot of blue-chips.

    * General: TAKE RISKS to innovate and take a lead in the market, rather than just playing catch-up. Albeit risks you can mitigate by having experts that really know what they're doing rather than large teams with lowest-common-denominator solutions to everything.

    £10 says they don't do more than 1/4 of this. I'll be happy to be proved wrong and keep some competition and innovation in this space.

  26. mrweekender

    Micro$oft =

    Massive bullshitters.

    Stealing other peoples original ideas, destroying instead of creating, stifling innovation by attacking open source. The only decent thing to come out of Microsoft in recent times is the 360 on Xbox live - is this managed by different people or what?

  27. N2

    Microsoft 'strategy'

    1. Turn out crap stuff

    2. Try & rubbish the competition

    3. Spend a ton on advertising

    4. Prance around the stage like a baboon

    5. Say it will all be fixed in the next version

    6. Goto step 1

  28. Doug 3

    simply hilarious

    "Meanwhile, we have the added complication of Windows 7. This will add finger-licking touch and raise further questions of why didn't Microsoft simply cut its losses and cut down the PC version of Windows for mobile devices."

    gawd that just busted me up laughing. It has taken Microsoft 10 years to get a modern version of Windows to fit on a 1GHz+ desktop CPU with atleast 1GB of memory and you'd like to see them bring that down to the smartphone products along with porting it to the ARM processor?

    Maybe by 2020 and by then, Intel CPUs might be at 19nm and 4GB of memory fits on a pin head so Windows 10 might be an option for phones. But then there's the little problem of running anti-virus software.

    Thanks for the laugh.

    Grenade because the article blows up on so many levels.

  29. Ian Davies


    "the part where their strategy fails is in the marketing."

    Are you sure it's not in the part where they make shitty, uninspiring products? Just asking.

    [snips a whole heap of stupid]

    "what apple do well that Microsoft don't is getting people to want to buy their products."

    Here we go again, another silly nerd who doesn't see the value in things that *WORK* and are *EASY TO USE* and thinks that getting people to buy Apple's products is the result of 'simple' marketing voodoo, rather than a lot of bloody hard work by a lot of bloody clever people.

    "I often feel like either I'm going mad or the world around me is going mad"

    I think you can take your pick.

    "the question is where were the microsoft ads on TV saying, wow, look at this really fucking cool thing that you can do?

    They weren't there!"

    Y'know there's a reason they weren't there, sparky.

    This has been said before all over the place, but before the iPhone, name ONE phone (smart or otherwise) that was advertised simply by showing how it worked? And I'm not just talking about a simulated screenshot while some model draped it over her tits, or some tool in an Armarni suit showed that he could hold a phone and look punchably smug at the same time.

    I mean working. Actually working. I'll let you get back to us when you have that lengthy list.

    "MS missed a trick on this, their platform was essentially open"

    You're confusing a platform that's open with a platform that was never fucking popular enough to really find out how Microsoft would deal with 60,000 applications running on it.

    "and there is no reason that they couldn't have setup an apps store equivalent"

    Just like there's "no reason" they couldn't have written a decent mobile OS by now, and "no reason" they couldn't have written a successor to XP that didn't suck dog's cock, and "no reason" they couldn't have made an MP3 player that didn't want to make you stab yourself in the eyes with a spork. You seeing any kind of trend here yet?

    " it should have been to point out the strengths it had over the iphone OS last year, or the year before..."

    Yeah. That's one of those *really* long lists again, isn't it?

    The problem with you, and all the other boo-hoo merchants that get wet pants over the iPhone's popularity, is that you don't understand one simple thing.


    That's right. Your opinion is not the same as that held by the majority. Apple cares about the majority. Apple knew that the majority didn't give enough of a toss about cut-and-paste for it to stop them being blown away by the tight collection of things that the iPhone does really well.

    By the time the iPhone was approaching mass appeal and something like the lack of cut-and-paste might start to get noticed, hey presto, iPhone OS 3.0 arrives and everyone who cares about cut-and-paste now has it.

    I've had phones with many more features before, but only 10% of them were useful/useable. The iPhone has maybe 20% of the feature set of most other phones, but they are ALL useful and people use them ALL the time.

    Having a web browser that isn't made from the smeg inside Beelzebub's foreskin is just one example.

    Therefore, the iPhone wins.

  30. Chief sub

    Let's call the whole thing off...

    Ballmer says "strategy", I say "vapourware"...

  31. Anonymous Coward

    repeat after me

    "The phone is not a desktop."

    The different form-factor requires a different interface. MS' massed ranks of mediocre Excel, Access and VB-in-Word developers will not be able to help it on the mobile front.

    Forget running generic OSX on netbooks, I'm looking forward to the windows netbook vs iphone-tablet battle. That fight might also be coming to a big-screen tv near you.

    I'd bet that scaling-up an iphone is going to have better results than scaling down a pc, but, you'll still need a phone and you'll still need a full pc, so maybe anything in-between will be difficult to sell.

  32. Eddie Johnson

    Even MS Knows Their Limitations

    "raise further questions of why didn't Microsoft simply cut its losses and cut down the PC version of Windows for mobile devices."

    All Bill's horses and all Bill's men still couldn't trim a bloated multi-gig OS that takes a minute to get fully up and running into something that could be embedded and run in a reasonable amount of RAM without needing water cooling and a car battery.

    They'd be better off going back to DOS 6.22 and putting a graphical windowing system on top of ... oh, wait. That didn't work either.

  33. xDR1TeK

    Pulling Hair

    I can only interpret matters in this way:

    1- Kernel that runs the mobile devices is still small in volume.

    Which means the rest of the OS is only aesthetic. Anybody can make apps that look good.

    MS toolboxes and SDKs will provide portability of codes between platforms.

    Which brings me to the next point:

    2- Development in the industrial sector, we need to be able to take control from workstations and port it to mobile devices using RF. Very Important to have compatibility.

    3- WM has to be less capable than winCE. WinCE has been a leader in User Friendly Embedded OS. You can always compile code directly and easily for use in winCE.

    Main Problem:

    There are many types of embedded devices. Far more than we care to learn of.

    None has provided an industry standard. Right now there are Freescale, BlackFin and ARM. Of which the latter has been more successful. for the OS's, uC was the favorable OS.

    WM has to be able to overshadow uC but not WinCE.

    WinCE has to be for RTUs. WinXP embedded has to be for the SCADA HMI types.

    So obviously, there are many types of embedded of OS's and mainly MS has maintained a foothold in every field.


    MS is not about software only, it is about the concept of programming, OOP and portability. There is the THEORY that they have worked to preserve in their GUI (a.k.a. windows) that is rarely found at other developer products.

    My Opinion, open source is a good attribute to allow the community to participate in a major development, but the problem is in cleaning the code. Linux today is least favorable all due to its quirky keywords that do not resemble anything by function. Toolboxes and SDKs for linux mobile devices are at the mercy of the manufacturing and developing companies.

  34. MetaDude

    Spot on analysis from JS Greenwood

    The analysis from JS greenwood is insightful and spot on for me. Well said.

    PS - I just love some of the colorful "dick" language here:

    from @DR - "..... the smeg inside Beelzebub's foreskin"

    from SlabMan - ".... not a nerd's penis substitute"

    Brilliant - I couldn't stop laughing.

  35. JS Greenwood


    Thankyou. :)

    [Mobile strategy *is* my job - I'd happily accept a substantial cheque from MS for the few minutes it would take to write up the obvious into a badly animated PowerPoint...]

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