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'Wired' weighs in on Windows Mobile: Microsoft blew it

Considering Microsoft just launched Windows Mobile 6.5 last month, hitting 30 new or upgraded phones, they are increasingly under fire from many in the industry, especially following those market share figures.

The latest is 'Wired' who writes that Microsoft had a lot of advantages but, quoting others in the business, they concentrated too much on enterprise (not consumers) and really let their platform lag, especially considering they started Windows CE in 1996.

Even Kinoma's CEO Peter Hoddie had some thoughts when he said

The sad part for Microsoft is that in terms of operating systems, they have a great one, and they had it long before anyone else did... Their first problem is the built-in apps are uninspiring, so that sets a very low bar for developers who are coming to the platform.

In essence, it was the iPhone that really changed the game, bringing consumer-level appeal to an industry focused on enterprise function.  Indeed, many of us purchased one of the first 3G Windows Mobile 5 devices (HTC PPC-6700 Apache) because we saw that the mobile internet and computing was the future.  However, it wasn't always a joyous ride with sparse updates, terrible transition from WM2003 to WM5 and buggy software.  There has always been that disconnect between what we wanted and what was offered: enter XDA Developers.

Actually, nothing in the 'Wired' article is really new or profound--in fact it is pretty obvious: Microsoft has been in this for the beginning, had hardware partners and a great head start, but failed to offer something  tangible for the mobile-ready consumer.  Sure we all know a Touch Pro 2 can smoke an iPhone in terms of functionality, power and even hardware, let alone a HD2, but at the end of the day, it is about branding, marketing, consumer appeal and making it desirable.  And Android so far doesn't do anything that Windows Mobile can't.

At least the news coming out from Mobius is positive and we're getting anxious for Windows Mobile 7--lets hope they deliver.  Read the full article here.

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Reader comments

'Wired' weighs in on Windows Mobile: Microsoft blew it

28 Comments

Well, I have some difficulties agreeing with the "branding bla bla" part. I have just read an interview with the Volkswagen chief designer, and he said quite the opposite: If the design of the car is not appealing, the marketing people might as well pack it in. I think this is absolutely true, and the iPhone is proof of it. It is desirable, so marketing just made exactly this known to prospective buyers. If it had been utter crap, "branding, marketing, consumer appeal and making it desirable" would just have been laughable.

appple has a well designed phone - but it's success is based on more that just physical design. the success tapped into:

1) an interface that was revolutionary to the market of its day;
2) very successfully iTunes to provide regular functionality updates, easily and to continue delighting it's target customers;
3) advertising that in clear, understandable terms d e m o n s t r a t e d cool capabilities that spoke to real-world needs (eg visual voice-mail);
4) hype - everything connected in a virtuos self-affirming cycle that kept the device on the front pages for months and months. and months.

msft has shown it is completely stupid when it comes to any consumer product marketing. advertising and branding are about establishing a connection with the tarhet customer. it's about building a positive affinity with customers and bestowing your product or service with attributes that appeal to your customers.

apple has brilliantly leveraged its ipod franchise into the phone market, and them into the pc market.

and combined with vista bashing, it's all taken its toll on the msft pc mothership.

The years of apple's mac v pc ads unanswered by msft have greatly hurt the overall msft brand. it's really important not to underestimate that!

here's the thing - assume windows 7 addresses every conceivable issue and leaps ahead of apple and android and blackberry and nokia - will sales of winmo phones change much? probably a bit, but not in terms of a revolutionary market swings to adopt windows phones. why would that be? well, because for anyone under age 40, microsoft is not cool. the brand is already tarnished as undesirable!

like general motors - msft could come out with some amazing consumer products - but people are already negatively disposed to the brand and won't try it, so they won't discover the changed experience.

what can be done then?

start now with this recepie:

1) start building a unified, integrated marketing vision that ties together the screens and a cloud vision now - so that it's professional and crisp for June next year.
2) stop those embarassingly stupid windows mobile ads that do nothing to bestow any emotional desirability to the platform;
3) replace them and engage immidiatetly in co-marketing with all winmo device manufacturers and phone carriers to d e m o n s t r a t e interesting benefits and capabilities;
4) immediately start attacking apple mac ads where it hurts - lack of aps, cost, lack of choices.
5) get 50,000 apps into marketplace by february 1
6) provide app developers the best tools possible to build apps of all kinds;
7) organizationally separate the phone division from anything else so it's success or faliure is not masked by other solution lines,
8) the msft board needs to ask if balmer understands anything about consumer solutions, if not what are they going to do?

bottom line: right now, the msft brand is being defined to consumers by apple. msft needs to retake control of defining its own brand. if it doesn't start now, winmo7 will have underwhelming sales.

I don't see Windows 7 mobile being that much different than Windows Mobile 6.5. Microsoft does not have the capability to develop slick looking user friendly interface. HTC with the Touchflow3d/Sense is much more advance than Microsoft can ever think of producing.

so you're saying the zune interface isn't a "slick looking user friendly" one?
ms definitely blew it, but they're big enough to be viable again (though I doubt they'll ever be the leader)

Doesn't have the ability to develop a slick interface? Are you someone merely reiterating some lie you heard? You should have a look at the following:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_WPdg6zUeE
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5jN29jeSI4

And you should try windows 7. The question isn't an "if", but "when". It's "when" they'll do it. According to people who've attended Mobius, they've done it:)Also, stop with the HTC this HTC that. It took them a while to come up with their junk. The first Touchflo was nothing like it was now, was it? And the Zune HD's ui in my opinion destroys anything HTC made.

I'm quite certain I've been running Windows 7 before you knew it existed. I stand by my statement. I have an AT&T Tilt 2. Apple and Google were able to develop a nice looking interface in relatively no time at all. Microsoft has had years, heck they've been working on Windows Mobile 7 for almost 3 years. Until they scrap Windows CE and start over from scratch, with younger programers, they will continue to lose marketshare.

I don't know if I agree with the TP2 smoking the iPhone, especially when the TP2 is still using 2+ year old technology (ie. Qualcomm 720X).

And its not about WM not having features present in other OS's, its about the consumers experience while using these features. Sure Android & Windows Mobile each have a internet browser, but the Android browser leads to a better experience. Sure the iPhone and Windows Mobile both have application stores, but the iPhones's leads to a better experience.

For the record I am a Windows Mobile user WM6.5/Xperia X1) so I am not "hating" just telling it how I see it.

And Microsoft has the capability to produce differentiating user experience (see Zune HD), they just need to do it.

Yes, the TP2 is lagging a bit behind the entire tech curve on the hardware end of things with Snapdragons hitting people's hands. But I've yet to find anything the iPhone does faster. For all the "hype" about the internals of the 3Gs, it sure doesn't deliver much.

Personally, browsing doesn't get much better than Opera 10 on WinMo for me... The only other one I use other than that is the new PIE in 6.5.1.

As for Android... I hated my G1, and my wife's Droid reminds me of a cheap LG phone... :(

I would have to degree.

As a dedicated WinMo user and someone who tried the iPhone 3GS, the 3GS just completely blows the TP2 out of the water. Not only does the 3GS' processor blow the TP2's processor out of the water in terms of pure Mhz and CPU architecture, but OSX Mobile was made to actually take advantage of the power.

I tried opening several apps on the 3GS (including several which also had a WinMo version) and the 3GS opened them all incredibly fast. The only way I could come close to matching the speed was to change the ROM on my phone to the lightest, fastest one I could find. Stock or loaded ROMs had no chance at all.

Furthermore, you should try out the Nokia N900 sometimes. When it comes to mobile web surfing, the N900 is definitely among the top of its class, if not at the very top. It is the first Nokia phone I truly desired in years and I want it solely because of how amazing the browsing experience looks.

However, despite all the others, I do agree with you on Android. I tried the G1 and the myTouch 3G and I just plain didn't like them.

I gotta say this: Microsoft gets dumped on alot about "sparse updates" right? But as a MS Mobile user ask yourself this: What is it that you absolutely cannot do on you MS phone. I know capacitive screens on MS came late but I mean functionality. And no I am not a fanboy, but really, if an OS is powerful and stable there may not be a need for an update for a while. Look at XP. It worked. Very well. So it lasted a long time. I am looking for winMo 7 too, but my TP2 on Win 6.5 is just fine. You can do ANYTHING on these phones. Don't like stock, go custom. Don't like the UI, go 3rd party. As far as "there's an app for that", there literally is an app for anything you could remotely imagine on WinMo. I agree marketing is needed for image, but from a tech standpoint, this is a sound product.

I've used a lot of 3rd party overlays, and none of them are as compelling as the iPhone ui. I'd rather wait for something brilliant from Microsoft than use the lipstick over a pig third party stuff that can't cover enough at the moment.

Some newer WM apps shine in the UI department but most don't. At least for the end user. I just don't think there is enough demand for certain apps on WM compared to the iPhone. Sure they have the same capabilities but elegance is something I'd take any day if I could have it. It doesn't matter if their product is stable, this is one area they can greatly improve on. And looking at the Zune HD, MS can do it. Just how much longer will we be waiting?

There is a WinMo Skin that makes the UI look & operate just like the iPhone.
Not saying WinMo is perfect, far from, but its hands down versatile, imo more than any other platform.

On another note, Apple & Google & RIM are driving competition. Hopefully Microsoft will join the game and in the end this will all yield better products for the consumer.

I just wish people would get over themselves and stop fanboy defending their preferred company. These billion dollar companys care about how you will keep putting money in their pockets, not about helping you defend their products.

"And Android so far doesn't do anything that Windows Mobile can't."

Yeah, ok. That's why I fought hard with my T-Mobile Wing for two years before I ran out and snapped up the MyTouch3G on the day it came out. I've been overjoyed with my Android ever since. It does TONS of things I couldn't get the WinPhone to do. My kid now plays with the Wing; she likes that is has a keyboard for texting.

Yeah...the Wing. A device from 2 3/4 years ago compared to a device released a few months ago. Fair comparison.

The Wing was a terrible device *when it came out*, let alone 2 3/4 years later, much like the Moto DROID today.

Not every WinMO device is good or great and neither is every Android device. Trust me, there is and will be Android clunkers as Android is running the same path as WinMO.

Try a Touch Pro 2 or HD2 when T-mobile gets it then come back.

I don't understand what's prompting all these talking heads to hop up on the apple crates and make these gnomic pronouncements about WinMo's recent past and distant future. I get it that it's kind of part of their jobs to do this kind of shit every now and again, but I don't understand why so many of them are doing it in the last couple of months, marketwise or businesswise. Is this just a giant slow-news-day or is there a point to any of it?

Usually when you get mag hacks and the internet equivalent excited about something you did wrong, it means they would rather have it the other way around so they and their networks could sell it. That's clearly not the case here, especially if they're all so hot about apple's "market share" and they're using the eye-phone model as the standard. These outbursts lately are basically saying: WinMo devices aren't eye-phones but they should be, so you could sell more of them. Selling more partner products must mean you have a better product. If MS 'fixed' WinMo, in the way you'd 'fix' a product, it would be popular because it would also do the kinds of things apple's bringing to market, and so (?) you'd sell more devices. Oh, and we aren't holding out much hope for the next release of the mobile OS, because, well, you know, we have a feeling about it.
It's not a criticism of the products or technologies that go into WinMo, it's not offering any solutions, and it doesn't really make much sense, unless I'm missing something profound in fine print somewhere.

I suppose it's only natural to reflexively assume that BB, Palm, apple and WinMo are all dogs in the same race, and that would account for a lot of the confusion, but if MS is bothered at all by all this huffing (which I am confident they aren't) they could end this thing and move on by branching development between a toy line, Zune-based, with all the gee-whiz pretty-pretties and no muscle on cheap devices built to spec on one side, and WinMo/Live**/whatever-oriented enterprise-capable smartphone systems on the other.

I just don't think they're going to bother, there wouldn't be a whole lot in it for them other than sticking it to apple, which they need no help doing and haven't since the first time someone freaked out and thought mac would take over. The only thing that worries me about all this is that the goddamned eye-phone gee-whiz factor is irresistible to the legions of uninspired, harried, incompetent product planners out there, and we're stuck in this glut of wanna-be ripoff features in place of innovation, R&D and serious functionality. WinMo marketing should just be a simple shout: "IF YOU WANT AN EYE-PHONE GO BUY ONE. WE DON'T MAKE THOSE."

msft cares very much to be be the leader in the smart phone platform:

1) because this is a very fast growing platform that could supercede the laptop/netbook market

2) to loose this hill to another vendor is the start of the end of the windows empire.

Outhouse, you seem very hostile. A tad upset because WM sucks worse then grandma Gertrude. And for some reason, you and many other Apple haters seem to think that eye candy and easy of use is equal to a non business worthy toy. How wrong you are. People don't want to dig through pages of complicated settings to get the dam thing to work. Easy of use is the be all, end all of computing. Your way of thinking is prehistoric and out of fashion. So is Ballmer for that matter and until M$ jettisons him like they did with Vista/ME the better off they will be.

Uh, how exactly could the Touch Pro 2 smoke the Iphone in terms of hardware. Unless you're talking about the stuff you're smoking, the Iphone has a dedicated video chip and a 600 MHZ proc that's 40% more efficient then HTC's 528 MHZ proc with integrated (and inferior) graphic card?

You can blab about the hardware keyboard all you want (and it is fantastic) but the iphone still rules the roost for software keyboards which are good enough for most people, and it's capacitive touch screen.

It is impossible for people to have a real discussion about this because of fanboy syndrome, but as I said, MS WM is a powerful, versitile OS. Always has been. We weren't waiting years for simple things like copy paste. The iPhone is a good device, nobody argues that, not even MS. But it is not the end all by any means. If it was we would all have one.

P.S.- (@ anonymous)MS doesn't make the processors or graphics chips, that is up to the manufacturer.

Another day, another "WinMo sucks cause it aint the iPhone filler piece.

Everything you can do with the Iphone, you can do with winMo.

hahahahahahaha I always get a good laugh coming here. If that makes you feel good about the using the worse mobile OS out there, then live it up.

And another immature iPhone j@ckass checks in to remind us why that OS produces the worse douchbags on Earth.

I guess if going around laughing at people for not using what you use makes you feel better, then apparently the iPhone hasn't done much for your social life.

Why wired lets Brian X Chen write articles on anything microsoft blows my mind...

Uh, how exactly could the Touch Pro 2 smoke the Iphone in terms of hardware. Unless you're talking about the stuff you're smoking, the Iphone has a dedicated video chip and a 600 MHZ proc that's 40% more efficient then HTC's 528 MHZ proc with integrated (and inferior) graphic card?

You can blab about the hardware keyboard all you want (and it is fantastic) but the iphone still rules the roost for software keyboards which are good enough for most people, and it's capacitive touch screen.

You know..not all of us by phones just to play fancy little games on. If I wanted to play a game, I'll just take my laptop out and play it. Oh look that has a 5000x better professor, a 5000x better graphics card and more ram..yeh I know stupid comparison.

WinMO and android devices are coming out with 1ghz processors that blow the iphones on out of the water. Plus you can multitask with winmo, something you CANT do with iphone.

Your soft keyboard may be great at typing 40 wpm, but hardware keyboards will STILL lead the way. People with blackberries and hardware keyboards have been able to reach 70 wpm.

Resistive screens are MUCH MUCH better now, pretty much getting to be on par with capacitative screens and you can also use a stylus if needed (like if you have to write chinese characters (or any asian language), try doing that with a capacitative touchscreen)

Sure we all know a Touch Pro 2 can smoke an iPhone in terms of functionality, power and even hardware, let alone a HD2

Smoking the good stuff at WME I see.

so you are sayng the zune interface isn't a "slick lookng usr friendly" one?
ms definitely blw it, but they're big enough to be viable again (though I doubt they'll evr be the leader)