Lets confuse things: Microsoft Announces Mobile OS for Enterprise; Motorola already on board

Microsoft is working another Mobile OS for enterprise devices (commercial devices) that is based on Windows Mobile 6.5.

"In the next six months we will release a new embedded OS called Windows Embedded Handheld, based on Windows Mobile 6.5 technologies ... [and] in the second half of 2011, we will release a version of Windows Embedded Handheld based on Windows Phone 7 technology," Microsoft's Steve Ballmer said via video during a Motorola enterprise smartphone launch event.

Ballmer feels this strategy will allow Microsoft to work on a clear path for enterprises to migrate their business applications to Windows Phone 7.

In reading the report over at PCMag, this sounds like a stop-gap measure until Microsoft can put out a version of Windows Phone 7 for enterprise devices sometime in 2011.

Before Windows CE garnered all that attention last month on tablets, it had always been featured prominently on rugged enterprise devices--think factories, out in the field (US Census), warehouses, etc. Forgoing  the bells and whistles of the traditional Windows Mobile, Win CE was more stripped down and geared towards business needs. WinCE is the core upon which Windows Mobile is built around.

With WM6.5.x and WP7 embedded (next year), Microsoft will continue this push by working with partners to deliver such rugged phones and devices to large companies. The first up is Motorola's ES400 (see image right) being launched on Sprint through their direct enterprise channels (i.e. you'll never see it in a store).

Interestingly, the ES400 features a skinned version of WM6.5.3 that nicely echoes the WP7 Start screen. The phone also has some nice features including an old-school PocketPC VGA screen

  • 600-MHz ARM11 processor
  • GSM HSPA, Sprint's CDMA EVDO
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g
  • 3-inch, 640-by-480 touch screen
  • camera/red LED scanner

Below all of that it is still WM6.5.3, but you'll have to dig deep to get it. It also features some battery-saving enhancements and it is expected to have a 3-year product life cycle (with a software upgrade in the future). See Sprint product listing here:  www.sprint.com/ES400

The reason why this is important is two fold:

  1. Demonstrates Microsoft is still committed to enterprise/delivering a tailored experience--this was always their market, they plan to keep it
  2. Shows there is a push back against using high-end consumer smartphones for enterprise e.g. iPhones--sometimes popular consumer devices don't have a place in the real business world

Additional reporting by George Ponder [Thanks, isaacl, for the tip]

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

  • Great !Now after iPhone Os Microsoft has to do something to keep the people and this mobile OS might be the part of that.If this mobile OS will be implemented then it will be an interesting competition between these two.
  • NOW i'm confused.
    How are businesses supposed to write software for this system?
  • It's not confussing at all unlike WP7 which is tightly controlled by MS, WEM (embedded mobile) is left for OEMs and device makers to use how they want, it's still technically WinMo 6.5 so any apps for 6.5 should work on this without any problems unless the OEM decided to take some parts of the OS out that they didn't need. Likewise with the later version based on WP7, any code/apps that work for WP7 should also run on devices with that version when the time comes. The main difference here is that MS is keeping these OS's open for the device makers to use how they want, no rules/restrictions or requirements like with WP7. That's all it is really.
  • This isn't for consumer phones. You will not be able to walk into a store and buy a phone running this. Think of stuff like those scanners you see people using in retail stores. That's the kind of handheld this will be used on.
  • This sounds a lot like the three tier strategy you spelled out months ago. Don't you love it when your right?! :)
  • lol, even I forgot about that! I mean...yeah, I knew all along.
  • What kind of looneys are running Microsoft anyway? Windows Phone 7 Series, er uh, wait.....change that to Windows Phone 7......oh, but wait again, lets throw in "Kin" to mix it up.....Oh, even better, lets also add in Windows Embeded Handheld! Bring Gates back and for the love of God, get rid of Balmer!
  • KIN uses WP7. It's just stripped down. It's a feature phone geared towards people who are obsessed with facebook.
  • The major mistake here is the lack of backwards compatibility with Windows Phone 7. What Microsoft is essentially saying is that if you have adopted a mobile personal or business strategy now, using their product, you can never upgrade that system. You have to abandon any purchased applications and strategies in place. This gives anyone using WM 6.x the option to switch platforms to either Blackberry, Android, or iPhone vs. reinventing themselves on Windows Phone 7. Backwards compatibility is the missing element here.
  • Actually, from what I understand the rationale is this: WP7 is a complete break from WM6., therefore enterprise can't get their apps updated to WP7 for sometime. MS is now offering these WM6.x enterprise devices as a stop gap till WP7 has matured in two ways: more enterprise features are introduced in updates and the software platform has developed to the point that major developers have now rolled out their 'WP7 compatible' versions. While not backwards compatible, you can adopt the "logic" behind your software to WP7, which has been put upwards of 80% of the software design. The rest, the UI, is what is needed to be adapted to the new OS, something which is not too difficult. As crazy as all of this seems, I think this embedded move was driven more by MS's partners than MS themselves.
  • Don't you think this abandonment of their current mobile OS for a new incompatible OS breaks consumer confidence? What if they abandon Windows Phone 7 once people are on board, for an incompatible Windows Phone 8 series and knock everyone back to square 1 again? So much development (both official and unofficial) has gone on for Windows Mobile. Was all that a waste of time, money and effort? Mal, I been a long time listener of WM Experts, I am surprised at your Prozac-like reaction to all this. Here is the problem, Windows Mobile and now Windows Phone's mantra is "In the future, we will be good". The competition is good now. The main difference in my opinion is that WM phones still freeze (main negative comment on Verizon and AT&T for WM phones is "phone freezes"). Its like if a car company had a car that frequently stalled, that would not be too popular either. Fix the freezing issue, market the thing and stop trying to be good in the future!
  • Microsoft took the decision very seriously to break with WM6.x Mind you, they weren't go to do it. "Photon" was Windows Mobile 7, backwards compatible and all. In early 2009 they scrapped that and went with "Metro" aka Windows Phone 7. They had to do it. They had to break with the old and broken foundation and unleash a new paradigm. Break consumer confidence? They're at
  • I think smartphone consumers are influenced by marketing. Are you telling me that Android as an OS is so far superior to Windows Mobile?
  • Yes, android as a OS is FAR superior to Windows Mobile. Windows Mobile has had 10+ years now to get this correct, and they have been surpassed by iphone OS (~4 years) and Android (~2years). Microsoft is basically done.
  • Windows mobile has been stagnant and Balmer has come out and admitted this. This is why they are doing a complete refresh. I wouldn't count them out yet. No one has even tried their new offering yet and how they are leveraging their xBox brand into it and how full on they are going after developers I'm feeling confident about this.