Can WinMo 7 Give Microsoft New Mobile Moxie?

Microsoft is readying a push to revitalize its Windows mobileoperating system. The company will Windows Mobile 7 at next month’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, according to Cnet.

Windows Mobile 7 has been billed as a major revamp of Redmond’s mobile OS. The source code, which is undergoing a completerewrite, will reportedly be finalized over the summer in time for arollout this fall.

The company is also said to be working on a new consumer phone under theSidekick product line.

A request for comment to Microsoft was not returned in time for publication.

About Time

While Microsoft has been building software for PDAs and smartphones for several years, rivals like Research In Motion, Apple and Google have more recently presented an increased degree of competition. Meanwhile, Microsoft hasn’t offered up a real breakthrough for years, according to Patrick Gilbert, president and CEO of 4SmartPhone.

“Microsoft has been nothing but evolutionary as far as its developmentof Windows Mobile has gone,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Windows Mobile 5, introduced several years ago, “was something of adeparture from the previous OS. But everything in between thoseversions and the current one has been nothing but incrementalevolution. To this day I can still see shades of version 5 in WindowsMobile.”

The only advances in the platform have come from Microsoft’s partners’initiative, he added, pointing to the user interface developed by HTC.”Hopefully Microsoft has gotten some ideas from that,” Gilbertconcluded.

Recent updates to the Windows Mobile platform have failed to keep apace with what rivals are offering, according to Azita Arvani, principal and founder of Arvani Group.

“While other mobile operating systems like iPhone OS, Android andwebOS have taken great strides in innovation and functionality in thelast 12 months, Windows Mobile has done very little to get excitedabout,” she told the TechNewsWorld, singling out Windows Mobile’suser interface as an example. “While the entire world is going towardsintuitive visual user interfaces, WinMo 6.5 is offering a text-basedlist interface as its home page. What were they thinking?”

New Game

With buzz building, the pressure is even greater for Microsoft — whichhas already been under enormous pressure from advances made by theiPhone and Android.

In particular, Apple’ formidable array of mobile apps — followed by asizable number of apps for the Android platform — is proving to be a seriouscompetitive factor.

The emergence of centralized, heavily promoted application storefronts like Apple’s App Store can be credited at least in part with moving smartphones into themainstream. Many people have had phones with smartphone capabilitiesfor years — like the Nokia Series 60 phones popular in Europe, for example –they just never used them as smartphones because it was not convenient,said Denis Margolin, DataArt’s mobile practice leader.

“Technology advances, including the apps, have made it possibleto create products and mobile services that people other than ITprofessionals could benefit from — such as navigation, messaging,geographical search, Internet access and others, without having asteep learning curve or paying heavily for the data transfer,” he toldTechNewsWorld.

Bar Set High

Indeed, given the leaps and bounds by which the mobile space is growing,this could be Microsoft’s last chance to make a splash with WindowsMobile.

“They’d better dazzle us with WinMo 7, because the bar has been setpretty high by the competition,” Arvani warned. “The mobile world haschanged dramatically since WinMo first came out. And Microsoft mustrealize that they can’t just make incremental improvements like theirdesktop OS model. This is time for radical innovation.”

Even if Windows Mobile 7 is a winner, more will have to be done for itto truly compete, she added. “They also need to get it on the rightphones, cultivate a dynamic development community and offer a broadset of compelling mobile applications. They have fallen behind on manyfronts.”

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