Is Microsoft’s Strategy Flawed? What Makes You Use Windows Mobile?

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Is Windows Mobile losing its unique selling points, which is just marketing talk for the things that makes Windows Mobile special? In the early days of the Pocket PC era, Microsoft boasted about multimedia capabilities through Windows Media Player, true multi-tasking abilities, a growing developer community, and document viewing and editing. Since then, many mobile smartphone platforms have caught up to Microsoft.

Some, like Apple and Nokia have even licensed Exchange ActiveSync to utilize Microsoft’s direct push technology for email, contacts, and calendar synchronization; Nokia now leads multimedia capabilities, many phones offer multitasking, and software development is abundant on a lot of platforms, including those software to view and edit Office documents. What really makes Windows Mobile unique? Is licensing Exchange ActiveSync a mistake as it would otherwise make Windows Mobile a natural and only choice for the corporate environment if companies implemented Exchange and Exchange ActiveSync?

Microsoft had previously marketed the Pocket PC platform as being familiar because it took on a Windows-like interface. However, the iPhone changed that and consumers seemingly want a more intuitive, less menu-driven interface on a pocket device. Familiar programs that are once only available for Windows Mobile now exists on multiple platform including Skype and Sling.

I am not sure why I am still a Windows Mobile user. If it weren’t for all the cooked ROMs and hacks available for many HTC devices, I would have probably jumped ship to a more stable platform as the stock ROMs that ship with many devices aren’t optimized to my liking. However, with slow development in the Windows Mobile community and incremental upgrades released every year or so, I do question Microsoft’s commitment to the platform. Does Microsoft see Windows Mobile as an important platform or is the company only using the platform to sell more Exchange servers and licenses? After all, Exchange servers and Exchange licenses are probably more profitable to the company.

Unless something significant comes out of the Windows Mobile camp soon, I question Microsoft’s commitment to Windows Mobile as a player in itself and not as tool to spur Exchange sales. I also fail to see the value of Windows Mobile as offering something that no other platform offers. The platform, although beneficial to me, is becoming less relevant in light of stiff competition from Nokia’s S60, Symbian UIQ smartphone platform on Sony Ericsson, Google Android, Apple iPhone, and the forthcoming Palm OS based on Linux.

In addition, Microsoft’s relationship with HTC, makers of many popular smartphones today, may hinder platform growth. While there are smaller manufacturers of Windows Mobile phones, those devices are relegated to a niche market, enjoying little sales and popularity compared to HTC. While HTC makes excellent quality phones, they don’t traditionally offer much in terms of design variation and style. However, because of economies of scale and being the largest manufacturer, HTC does have weight and influence in getting adoption by carriers. Other phone manufacturers with more popular and well-liked designs will get shut out of markets. Since they won’t get picked up by carriers, those phones will less likely end up in the hands of consumers because many consumers will not pay full price on a phone that is unsubsidized by a carrier. Because of this, Microsoft’s relationship with HTC may be hurting the platform–consumers who want a candybar QWERTY may be more inclined to turn to the BlackBerry platform or get a Palm instead. While there are more smartphone choices on Windows Mobile today, the price of acquisition is still quite high when those phones are unsubsidized.

Are you all committed to Microsoft’s platform, or are you getting antsy waiting for something new, exciting, and better?

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About The Author
Chuong Nguyen