Monday, September 28, 2009

Microsoft will build a smartphone

I have been thinking about Microsoft in mobile for a few days, trying to guess what I would do, if I were Ballmer.

Quick look at the state of Microsoft in mobile: first, they have the Zune, an mp3 player of dubious success (because I am in a good mood); second, they have Windows Mobile, an operating system of lagging success (see, I am in a good mood!).

Now, any news on Windows Mobile lately? Lots. First of all, Palm dropped support for it in favor of WebOS (not a surprise). Then Motorola did the same in favor of Android (well, not a surprise to me, but it must be sad for Microsoft). HTC, LG, Samsung, Sony Ericsson all said they will have Android devices. It does not mean they are gone, but they are close.

To put it in a different way: everyone is abandoning the ship.

Any good news? The Nokia new netbook runs Windows 7 (which is still not Windows Mobile...). That took me by surprise. It is good news, but not in the smartphone business, where the growth is. And I am ready to bet that Nokia is doing just a test, ready to jump to a different platform (Maemo) as soon as it is ready for prime time on the netbooks as well (it is ready for smartphones today).

Ok, you can bet your house on Windows 7 (the "good one"), but would it be sufficient to turn the boat around? Will all the device manufacturers change their mind and rush back to Microsoft. And why?

No, I mean, why? The open source OSs out there are free. Microsoft charges $$ for it. The other OSs support the Office docs and have ActiveSync for Exchange. Why does a device manufacturer need to go back to Windows? Why?

Exactly: they won't.

So, what are the options, if you are Ballmer:
  1. open source Windows 7 (yeah, right)
  2. build your own smartphone
I just do not see #1 happening soon, although it might one day (I am an optimist). Even if they do it today, they are late. Therefore, I am left with #2.

Microsoft will build a smartphone. A Zune smartphone. Definitely with a different brand, because Zune does not score too high with consumers... They are a HW company, whatever you think. They have been successful - at least - with the XBox. And they must have bought Danger for something... Once again, the device(s) will be designed in Silicon Valley, which is now the center of mobile (as odd as it seems for those that have lived here for a few years).

Will they succeed? Windows 7 better be really good, because they are way behind. Honestly, looking at their history in mobile and the market development, I would not bet on them. But what do I know? I am an open source guy and Ballmer once said Linux was a cancer ;-)