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Windows Mobile 6.5 and 7, and their tag-team match with Android and iPhone

Things are getting a little cloudy in the Windows Mobile world, and we're welcoming the stormy skies. First, a refresher:

  • We're expecting Windows Mobile 6.5 to be released in the coming weeks.
  • We're pretty sure there's a Windows Mobile 6.5.1 waiting in the wings. We've seen but can't share (yeah, that's not fair, but them's the breaks) early — repeat: as in some time ago — screen shots of the purported build. The leaked ROMs we've seen recently (Exhibits A and B) appear headed in that direction but actually aren't quite there yet.
  • We're expecting the as yet still unannounced Windows Mobile 7 early next year, and it (hopefully) will be more along the lines of what we're seeing on the Zune HD than what we're used to on our current (and even upcoming) devices.

Now, fast-forward to the present, specifically the latest from Digitimes. They're giving an Oct. 1 date to the 6.5 "release" - quotation marks ours because you're probably not going to be able get a carrier-sanctioned upgrade at midnight or anything. Windows Mobile is still Windows Mobile, and carriers is carriers.

Digitimes also reports Microsoft plans "an upgrade version with a touch interface in February 2010, the sources indicated citing Microsoft roadmap." That's also right in line with what we've heard (but admittedly have have not second-sourced) regarding Windows Mobile 6.5.1. What phones will get 6.5.1? We're hearing the HTC Touch Pro 2 and Touch Diamond 2 — specifically the AT&T versions, which would lend credence to recent musings by Engadget that we'll finally see the keyboardless phone on the same network at the iPhone.

Then there's Windows Mobile 7, which Digitimes says will co-exist alongside Windows Mobile 6.5 when it's launched sometime in Q4 of 2010. As in, more than a year from now. The idea, Digitimes says, is to take on Android from the 6.5 front and the iPhone from Windows Mobile 7. (Sorry, Android. You get the second string offense, apparently.)

Now, we're among the first to take news from Digitimes with a big 'ol helping of salt. So what should you take out of this?

If you're not stoked about Windows Mobile 6.5, that's cool. We're pretty sure bigger things are in the works, starting with Windows Mobile 6.5.1, and really getting going with Windows Mobile 7. Look no further than the Zune HD for evidence of what Microsoft is capable of.

It's going to require some more ... what's that word? ... Patience.

Phil is the father of two beautiful girls and is the Dad behind Modern Dad. Before that he spent seven years at the helm of Android Central. Before that he spent a decade in a newsroom of a two-time Pulitzer Prize-finalist newspaper. Before that — well, we don't talk much about those days. Subscribe to the Modern Dad newsletter!

31 Comments
  • Im sure 100%
    Windows Phone 7 is Zune HD software+ Winndows phone 6.5.1 in more standard device like Htc , Samsung etc. Standard device = Tegra inclused
  • That's incorrect the WinMo6.5 team is separate from the WinMo7 team. They are totally different OSes
  • Ok maybe this is just me, but don't you think Microsoft missed the boat? i mean the end of summer is a big time for phones i.e. back to school. it just feels to me that by the time windows 7 comes out to compete with the iphone, in the coolness factor, they will behind again. Im sure apple will have another better update and .... well i wont go on im just frustrated with having to wait so long for 6.5 since they freakn announced forever and a day ago!!
  • I would think that Apple will update the iPhone 2-3 times before we can buy a Tegra based WinMo 7 device, so that could be a problem for M$. But at the same time, Apple's refreshes are fairly minor each time they upgrade the hardware. I think a HTC device with WinMo 7 and a Tegra processor could be comperable to the iPhone 6G.
  • Now I'm convinced Microsoft is being run by executives from 1875. Why on earth would they spend the development time and resources to fight two different OS's on two different fronts? Make one good one that can tackle all the competition. That's almost as dumb as having a touch version of WM and a non-touchscreen version. Make ONE that works everywhere. And for those that are going to champion why Microsoft makes two different versions, remember this: Android is Android. And the same version works on touchscreens and non-touchscreens. If MS wants to take on Android with the "second string offense", then it's one battle they're going to loose. The shot of the HTC Hero in the pic is one Android interface. Sony-Ericcson is working on the Rachael interface which looks totally different and is extremely hot ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9UwcVlF5EUM ). So if MS is making OS's to take on Android as if it's the stagnant iPhone, then it's one battle they're going to loose. For the sake of healthy competition, let's hope they don't go this route.
  • Agreed. They can't underestimate Android when all the big handset makers have committed to releasing Android handsets and in the case of HTC, SE and Motorola, they are going one step further by committing time and resources to modifying and customizing the user interface. C'mon MS, as asked by millions of people - what is going on?!
  • At this point, there's no use getting frustrated, impatient or otherwise bothered by this news, whether it turns out to be true or not. Its plainly obvious that MS just moves too slowly to be really competitive in the mobile OS world and their market share will begin to consistently shrink over the next number of years, as we have seen already happening with the Q2 results. MS is just not giving anyone a compelling reason to buy a WM device over the competition and even though they will eventually produce something considered modern everyone will have something a few steps ahead and MS's offering wont have any attraction. Dont forget, Nokia phones will be getting office, and they have also started on a new direction with Maemo which will be further competion for WM. Better to just chill and move on to a competing platform. WM fans have cried out long and hard for change and MS is just not listening, we should think hard about continuing to support such a product when the competition is ahead in so many areas.
  • Seriously, this is stupid, not that they are going to update WinMo, but that they think Android, with its completely finger friendly interface, will compete well with something that, at underlying levels is completely and totally frustrating to users. I lent my mom my touch pro, and she had so much trouble making calls and texting, and the other day, my sister lent her Magic to my mom, my mom had absolutely no problems using it. I did have 6.5 on my Pro, and put it on Touchflo, and somehow she kept killing Touchflo. Windows is not targeting tech dumb consumers here, and until they do, they can't compete with either Android or iPhone in the consumer sphere
  • I think your mom is the issue there, not the touch pro, TF3D, or windows mobile.
  • lol. I read this post before the one above and thought we were getting into some serious mom jokes...
  • Ok Microsoft wants EVERYONE to buy their product so they produce for the consumer...Everyone is different and makes different amount of money...So having a low-cost OS for people who are not fortunate to get the premium is still pretty good...And besided at least now they both will have touch-screen UIs...Just remember, Microsoft is planning to be the bridge for ALL TECHNOLOGY for consumers...Soon we'll have Microsoft Surface tables listed as appliances in Home Depot...Look closely, Microsoft is everywhere all these other companies cant and you know what they're capable of...Look at the Xbox 360...Best console out(Cant count the Wii cause its stats are misleading) or check out this Zune HD coming this Fall...
  • Me thinks me will just stick to the Blackberry. More stable OS and none of this drama. Waiting on the BB Storm 2 which is a true business phone and none of the kiddie stuff including iPhone either. :)
  • Android and Apple are so far ahead of WinMo at this point it is not really a contest. Also, BlackBerry continues to make progress with the Storm 2 which is rumerred to be released later this year. And Microsoft, according to the above article, won't be releasing WinMo 7 until late 2010?! Fortune magazine recently listed RIM (parent company of BlackBerry) as the fastest growing company in the world and listed them as having a 56% smartphone market share in the USA. It seems that any article I've read about smartphone market shares lists WinMo devices far behind BlackBerry and the iPhone and even behind Android. If what I am reading here today turns out to be true, I can't imagine WinMo surviving for a very much longer period of time. The customer base in any industry, especially technology, will not wait.
  • This is all starting to make more sense. I wondered why MS would go to such lengths to tell their partners that they weren't going to compete with them by building their own phone hardware (when they were clearly headed in that direction). I'm pretty convinced that we will see a Microsoft branded phone added to the Zune lineup in 2010 -- I believe this is the WM7 in Q4 2010 that the rumors are centered around. I think WinMo will continue on after 6.5, targetting Android and other devices until the Zune phone devices become mainstream and cheap enough to compete alone. If MS announced this now, no one would buy a Zune HD -- we'd all wait a year for the phone.
  • I agree 100.
  • Huh. That is actually quite plausible dude. Nice theory. This could very well happen but they will lose more market share by Q4 2010 if this rumor is to be believed. However, if it is true then let's presume the "Windows Phone" (it's all coming together now) is released on the said date, MS will need to have a long term strategy to regain lost ground, provided the Windows Phone is at least excellent if not spectacular. Let's face it, anything less than excellent will not be sufficient to combat the behemoth (at least in terms of success) that is the iPhone. No matter how we dissect it, MS is certainly on the back foot but that is not to say they can't turn things around. As I always believe, when you're as big and powerful as MS and now Apple are, anything is possible but complacency can be a bitch. Only time will tell what will be, and that really will be the telling factor for MS won't it? TIME.
  • All of you are correct, and all of you are wrong. Why? b/c no one knows. Microsoft will come back out as the leader, then Nokia will come out on top again, then Google, then Apple, then RIM, and then Micro will be back at the bottom. It's a cycle. Every country has its reign. Micro's ended yrs ago when they never hada niche, but now they are rebuilding, restucturing, and realizing they are all across the board... Which is why the combination of Win7, WinMo7, Zune (software - not player, b/c we all know there will be a Zune phone, or at least Zune on a phone, meaning no more Zunes), along w/ Office online (copying Google), and the touchscreen technology and the ability to control your home technology they're creating will become a massive ecosystem that, once you adopt one of their products, you will adopt then next, the next, then next, etc. So what they are copying the ipod?! It's business. So what they moved free office online and copied Google?! It's business. And even if you don't adopt all Micro, look at what is going on w/ all companies: they are allowing each other to use each other. Pre and iTunes for example. In 3 years, everything will be compatible w/ everything; our only choice will be which hardware we want (HTC, Micro, Apple, RIM, and then the carrier if it's a phone). And I think no one can deny that the current zune is a beast, let alone the new zune HD. And soon, the whole world will be wifi'ed and we'll all be on skype!! And then skype will have a competetor and we'll argue about that...
  • Hey, who really cares in the great scheme of things, because none of this will be available to us who already own outstanding mobile devices. I think Microsoft made a huge mistake in leaving it up to the phone manufacturers to upgrade the rom, I can tell you most phone makers are not going to offer updates on their os when it cost them and the current os is functional. So my conclusion is if you buy a WM device you better be happy with what you get unless you head over to XDA and put a modified rom on your device. For example, I have a HP Ipaq 211 that has WM6 and even has an built in application to check for upgrades from Microsoft; this is a scam and a lie that HP and Microsoft has sold me. Why do I say this; because I know like everyone else that this built in app for upgrade will never do anything. In fact, I think this classifies as a class action since I, like others, was under the impression that they would upgrade this device because of this Windows Update app which I believe does and never will do anything.
  • By the way, if you want a device that you are sure will have periodic upgrades look no further than Blackberry or IPhone, because you will not ever have many chances to upgrade Windows Mobile. The reason I believe this is because I have had at least 9 WM devices with not a single rom update available anywhere but XDA's hacked roms. I think that either HTC should buy Windows Mobile or vice-versa, since HTC has visually made the outdated software into something and offers hope for this platform.
  • I'll probably the first, and maybe only, to call MS a genius concerning this strategy. Separating, 6.5 and 7 into two separate entities could in fact help them stop their downward trend and hopefully gain market share back. Have you not noticed the line between dumbphones and smartphones are slowly diminishing? We now have dumbphones that can do most of what a smartphone can, like emails and internet. Compare this to an outnumbered battalion against an overwhelming enemy. It's suicide to take the enemy head on when you are clearly going to be crushed. The best chance you will have is to separate the enemy into smaller groups and fight the much more manageable campaigns. Basically, flank the enemy to separate and disorganize them. As another example, ever wonder why auto makers have so many divisions of makes? Toyota (Lexus, Scion), and GM (GMC, Chevy, Saturn). These auto manufacturers have separate divisions because it understands it has separate consumer groups. Okay, maybe GM was a bad example, because they went bankrupt, LOL, but you get the idea.
  • I have to raise few basic questions to Microsoft
  • Cause it's better that way for them to compete with Android, which is free. It's good to offer a cheap entry-level os, and also have a premium experience as well. Think windows xp and vista.
  • Gotta stop you on that one. If you're looking at this purely from a cost to license standpoint, MS is doomed to failure. Android is not an entry-level OS (although it can be run on entry-level hardware). In fact, MS needs to step up their game because Android IS free. A full featured, powerful OS (installed primarily on WM's biggest supporting hardware manufacturer's devices, I might add) for free means MS needs to find a way to match that at lower costs. If MS truly believes as you're saying, I'd like to spend some time on that beach. Cause there must be a lot of sand on it for that many people to have their heads in.
  • By "entry-level" I meant 6.5 would be cheap for manufacturers, and frankly speaking, it can match Android (If not surpass) it in features. I'm glad none of you know-it-alls basing complaints on unsubstantiated rumours aren't running this company >_>
  • aren't you curious to know the back story that lies behind winmo 6.1, winP 6.5 and 6.5.1 and WinP 7? I'm sure it would make good reading. :-) it occured to me the other day that the real growth in mobile devices and their capabilities will kick into gear when the 4G networks roll out. each mobile os will want to enable the kind of services such speedy networks and (by then) faster clocking chips and more bountiful memory. so, each os will want momentum toward that. the brands with the strongest market trust and market traction will be top of the pile as long as they have the ability to execute well. right now that isn't how we could describe the microsoft phone os.
  • Everyone except the iPhone crowd talks about future phones. I think this is quite telling.
  • a very good point! :-)
  • How can WM7 be launched so late (Q4 2010) when there is hardware already certified to work with it ?
    http://www.mobiletechworld.com/2009/08/16/windows-mobile-7-is-getting-cl...
    http://www.mobiletechworld.com/2009/08/16/wipc-hybrid-mid-bundled-with-w...
  • Sounds stupid at first, but like was mentioned above, I think this is really going to be used as an excuse to test the waters with getting into the hardware side of things. 6.5.x for the OEMs, WM7 for the MS device (at least at first.) In the desktop OS space, they can afford to rely on their OEM partners as the MS offering has overwhelming marketshare. That tactic clearly hasn't worked as well in the mobile space and they have to be willing to explore all options if they want to remain competitive in the space. And I still maintain that any hardware-based device they make is going to (or at least needs to be) more than just a 'Zune phone.' I actually expect they will have a device that is basically the mobile compliment to the Xbox (with a non-phone version as well, much like the iTouch is to the iPhone.) MS has been conspicuously absent from the massive/growing portable gaming space for far too long for something like this to not be in the offing. It just makes sense in a convergence era where the phone is quickly absorbing the PMP market and starting to get a toehold in the gaming market. With Microsoft's gaming pedigree and well-established/growing Xbox user-base it would be their best chance to have a device that's actually a hit and put the first sizable dent in iPhone market/mindshare.
  • Even factoring in piles of Windows and Office money it is hard to see how this will reverse the declines that WinMo is seeing in market share and unit sales. Palm will end the WinMo Treo's and that will add to the decline. WinMo 6.5 will come out after iPhone 3.1 and new Android releases so it will be further behind. 6.5 will have a tiny market share as few people are going to buy a new phone to get it. WinMo7 will be out way after every other player has made big moves. They may have half the market share that they do now by the release of WinMo7. Phone makers can sell the same phone with Android or WinMo. They need a reason to put WinMo on the phone that gets them something back to cover the extra cost. Consumers need a reason to want to buy a WinMo phone. Re-branding efforts and dual platforms are not going to fix this.
  • I'll probably the first, and maybe only, to call MS a genius concerning this strategy. Separating, 6.5 and 7 into two separate entities could in fact help them stop their downward trend and hopefully gain market share back. Have you not noticed the line between dumbphones and smartphones are slowly diminishing? We now have dumbphones that can do most of what a smartphone can, like emails and internet. Compare this to an outnumbered battalion against an overwhelming enemy. It's suicide to take the enemy head on when you are clearly going to be crushed. The best chance you will have is to separate the enemy into smaller groups and fight the much more manageable campaigns. Basically, flank the enemy to separate and disorganize them.
    scrub m65
    As another example, ever wonder why auto makers have so many divisions of makes? Toyota (Lexus, Scion), and GM (GMC, Chevy, Saturn). These auto manufacturers have separate divisions because it understands it has separate consumer groups. Okay, maybe GM was a bad example, because they went bankrupt, LOL, but you get the idea.