So what is really happening with Windows Mobile?
Few months ago Windows Phone 7 was released. It was Microsoft’s biggest attempt so far to get back into the mobile competition after losing the crown few years ago to RIM’s BlackBerry and later on to iPhone and Android.
I’ve been trying Windows Phone 7 for a couple of weeks now and the more I use it, the more I like it.
Well, maybe ‘like it’ is the wrong term here… I’m practically in love with it. It’s AMAZING.
Sure, it doesn’t have even half of what iPhone or Android have to offer, and switching from iPhone was not an easy task for me, but now that I’m getting used to it I honestly think it’s already a better productivity platform than BlackBerry, and with the right investment it can give a decent fight to Android and iOS.
In order to make it happen, Microsoft must invest heavily on WP7, which is what it does, neglecting what used to be the leading mobile platform in enterprise mobility: Windows Mobile.
I’m getting tons of questions lately about Windows Mobile: is it dead? is it going to remain supported in the next few years? will there be new versions of it?
There’s a formal answer to those questions and the answer is: YES.
Microsoft has announced months ago that Windows Mobile will remain functional and supported for many years under the name of Windows Embedded Handheld (current version is 6.5, just like the latest version of Windows Mobile which is 6.5.3). The announcement was there but we didn’t see anything happens since, but thjs is finally changing now: Microsoft is finally rolling out the latest release of Windows Embedded Handheld to OEMs such as Motorola (Symbol), Intermec, etc. (more details in here). There are even plans for future releases and an actual roadmap.
For field service organizations which are often looking for rugged devices those are great news. Windows Mobile 6.5 was available so far only on consumer based smartphones such as Samsung Omnia or HTC Touch HD2. Since those devices are now considered to be old and not so popular among consumers, it’s hard to find them. But for rugged devices, the upgrade from version 6.1 to 6.5 is important (although not drastic, as it mostly has to do with some minor UI improvements).
But there is also an informal answer: Windows Mobile is dead. For consumers.
How does it matter you ask?
Since many of the enterprise organizations are now deploying Android handsets and iPhones, the expectations from all the mobile devices are to be touch-only based, friendly, modern. Deploying a different operating system which doesn’t exist any longer on the consumer side might become an issue for many IT managers.
In a year from now, when practically everyone will be using smartphones and probably tablets as well, and more than half of them would be Android based – it will be much easier to define strategies around one mobile platform rather than having different mobile OS deployed. By that time we will probably see more Android models (and ‘more’ means much more, as we already have over 100 different models, think what will happen in a year from now), and we will probably see some rugged Android models as well.
Preferring an Android platform with few models over a mixture of few mobile OS including WinMo would be legitimate, even a smart move.
Add to that the development factor: .Net Compact Framework is no longer part of Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 (which gives a hint about the importance of it), and most of the mobile developers today are working on iPhone and Android applications. We already see a trend where mobile software vendors start pushing other alternatives than the Windows Mobile applications. New technologies will first be supported by applications on iPhone, Android, etc. (I’ve yet to see some augmented reality demo on Windows Mobile…) and the gaps will become bigger each day.
The end result, therefore, (and of course this is only my own opinion), is that even though Windows Mobile was not officially announced as dead, the changes in the market, the changes in Microsoft’s priorities (WP7 mainly), and the fast movement towards Android in the enterprise – will all turn this once powerful OS to be irrelevant.