Thursday, January 29, 2009

Microsoft needs some buzz in mobile

Microsoft is getting hammered in any market, but in particular in mobile, which happens to be the fastest (and only) growing segment of the market (yep, netbooks are part of mobile in my world).

When it comes to mobile, Microsoft flagship product is Windows Mobile. A bad looking, badly managed, low performance, slow selling operating system. In any market, Microsoft usually gets it right at version five. In mobile, we are at 6.5 and still they are years behind the competition (quoting Apple).

The last blow to MSFT is Motorola abandoning any effort on Windows Mobile. They are fully and only concentrating on Android. It is public news, you can even look at areas where MOTO is hiring: Android only. Windows Mobile is becoming just an add-on, something to drop soon.

Same for Palm. They are about to come up with the new Pre. Guess what will happen to their Windows Mobile lineup? Yep, we agree.

Who is left? HTC. Granted, they are fast growing. But they are now the leading supporter of Android (the G1 is made by HTC and I would guess the G2 will be HTC as well). And maybe Samsung and LG, that seem to have other plans as well.

Bottom line: the game of Microsoft, to reproduce in mobile the dynamics of the PC world has failed. There, they have a ton of HW vendors selling the same exact OS. Here, it just did not work as they planned.

I used to joke about this with something I heard once: if I give my daughter a hammer and tell her "be careful you could get hurt", she is likely to get hurt (maybe your kids are smarter than mine, I urge you to try it tonight to see if it is true ;-) Anyway, she will get hurt once. But she won't do it again. I can guarantee you.

HW vendors have seen what happened to them in the PC world. Totally marginalized. They won't let Microsoft or anyone else do it in mobile as well. They are much smarter now. They know they have to control their destiny and differentiate on the OS as well. They know the answer is open source.

Now Microsoft needs to do something. Quick. In an interview with CNET, Andy Lees said:

[..] Microsoft's efforts to make sure that its mobile software could run on a wide range of phones resulted in an operating system that failed to take advantage of advances in hardware. "We aimed to go for a lower common denominator," Lees said.

Nice way to say "we tried the game we played in the PC world and, oops, it failed".

He added:
"You are going to see a bunch of announcements at Mobile World Congress but also it is going to be the beginning of a 12-, 18-month period where you are going to see a whole bunch of different stuff"
So, MWC in February is the turning point. They have to come up with something great, something that will have people say wow. It is probably be a combination of the Sky services (a MobileMe and AppStore equivalent) and - maybe - a new strategy for the phone (or a phone itself? I would not rule it out). I haven't heard much since they acquired Danger and I am ready to bet MWC is going to be their coming out party.

They need buzz. Badly. A new phone would be just the right thing. They are a HW company after all (the XBox is one of the few positives going on at MSFT right now). Or it might be open sourcing Windows Mobile. That would be so cool.

With a suggestion to Andy: please try to avoid statements like the following, if you can:
"Our competitors are scrambling to try and copy our success"
Yeah, right. The one you had in the PC world ;-)