Microsoft kills Zune phone talk
Concedes Windows Mobile 'uncool'
FAM Microsoft has killed any lingering hopes, fears, dreams, suspicions or conspiracy theories involving a Zune challenge to Apple's iPhone.
At the same time, Microsoft executives committed to improvements in Windows Mobile, saying the software's been too square for consumers.
But the company won’t commit to the possibility of tailoring its Windows operating system to Intel x86 on mobile.
Chief executive Steve Ballmer and entertainment and devices business chief Robbie Bach pledged Microsoft would follow a software-only strategy during Microsoft's Financial Analyst Meeting (FAM) on Thursday. They said Microsoft would work more closely with handset makers instead.
Ballmer said he believed in the need for Microsoft to be a "for profit, software-only player" in the mobile phone market.
Bach - whose business seems to have not heard of the iPhone's success - backed this up, saying Microsoft will do a better job on integration of its software with the underlying hardware.
"You will see dramatic improvements between the integration on software and hardware," he said.
Translated: no Microsoft-style iPhone. But there will be a continuation and improvement in Microsoft's established model forged in PCs and servers of working with hardware providers. The prospect of a Microsoft phone, based on the Zune, has been a fertile source for rumors and half-reports.
Bach continued that Microsoft could - and would - improve the capabilities in Windows Mobile for consumers.
"If I have a critique of our phones it is that our experience is very good in the business case," Bach said, pointing to things like integration with Outlook and Exchange. "We will change with 6.5," he promised, telling financial analysts this would provide a "very rich browsing experience with the ability to get to more sites than you can get on an iPhone".
To help get there, he claimed Microsoft had "significantly invested" in "quality talent" during the last 12 months, with people from Microsoft's Exchange, Windows, and mouse and keyboard businesses recruited to work on mobile inside the entertainment and devices division.
Apart from Windows Mobile 6.5, there were no more specifics on what Microsoft had planned to take on Apple, RIM, or Palm in smart phones.
Microsoft hosts FAM after the close of its fiscal year, and the company has seen a decline in market share despite an increase in the number of phones sold that run Windows. Ballmer blamed execution and slow pace of development.
Microsoft’s problems in mobile and devices have certainly been of its own making. Since stepping up to challenge the Palm Pilot with Windows CE around 10 years ago, Microsoft has flipped between evangelizing the Windows CE and Windows Mobile brands. This has created confusion for everyone concerned.
But now, things are set to get even more complicated. Intel is working on low-powered x86 for mobile, which raises the prospect of full-fledged Windows also making it on to mobile phones or devices like readers.
Bach failed to provide any insight into what Microsoft might do with x86 on mobile.
Asked whether x86 is a "significant event" in the mobile roadmap, Bach said: "We have a pretty good handle on the x86 environment and we can make a business decision based on volume and what our operator customers are looking for."
Chief research and strategy officer Craig Mundie, on stage with Bach, suggested the work putting Windows on x86 mobile would be relatively easy from a technology stand point. He said Microsoft knows x86 well and has an easy time supporting x86 through its work on PCs and servers.
"Clearly, adapting that to the environment that we have in the embedded and the phone business would take some work. But it is not a monumental amount of work," Mundie said. ®
@James & AC
James - I can honestly say I detest the Iphone, I find it amusing when people show me their new iphones, yes, you paid a lot of money for a phone that took 3 years to be able to copy & paste, comes with (on average) 18 month to 2 year contracts yet is superceded annually, can only run 'authorised' software unless you hack the phone etc etc (I could continue but this is a windows for phones comment page)
AC, I currently use a TyTn II, which replaced a Hermes 100 (Orange SPV M3100) which replaced a HTC Universal (XDA Exec) etc right the way back. My next phone will most likely be a HTC (Though Orange aren't currently listing a WM based HTC phone other than Touch 3G unless you are a business customer)
The point I was trying to make however was that there is a plethora of virii for the standard x86 windows platform, comparatively few for the WM platform, and the worst possible thing I can imagine from MS is the inception of an OS which SHIPS on 4.3Gb of media, has more security holes in it than Paris Hilton has had spam javelins, expands on the drive at a seemingly exponential rate, boots marginally slower than your average 3 yr old can solve integral calculus in their head, and is less stable than your average serial killer.
Especially when that OS is targetted at a platform which is inherently designed for the purpose of placing calls. If the person who came up with the idea of a full windows version on a mobile phone was an animal, they would probably get caught in a trap, chew 3 legs off and still be stuck.
and finally AC.. yes, it's a good job MS stick to making software, they wouldn't make any money in hardware, they would probably name their hardware something silly like Xbox, or Zune or... oh, wait.
The tiering of the OS was due to the way the Vista platform works, the way Windows 7 will work, and the fact that there are 2 versions of Windows Mobile 6, the Pro version (has office and a few other things) and the Standard version.
What's next? Windows for washing machines? "Fatal Error, The drivers for your socks caused an unexpected fault in nose.exe"
My message for the first two posters
WM7 screens and dev have been seen
A final WM6.5 isn't out yet
"Before the iPhone, a windows mobile device was about the best (opinion) Pocket PC option as they started adding phone and GPS capabilities." I disagree. The Blackberry was the best business option, and still retains that crown.I can honestly say that you'd have to pay me a lot to even consider Windows Mobile as a platform again. It is a typical half arsed Microsoft platform that is nowhere near as good as the current competition from Apple, Nokia and Google. I'd have another Blackberry without question. Given the choice between Blackberry and iPhone, for me, iPhone wins hands down. Of the smartphones I've owned, the iPhone is simply the most usable. My first Nokia 2110 was more useable than my Windows "smart"phone ever was. Here's the thing, Dustin. People such as yourself like lists of features. You seem to think that having more features is better. You have scant regard for *how* these feature are implemented and by and large they are just really poorly done in Microsoft products, Windows Mobile being a prime example of this. There are some absolute gems on the App store, Things for example is superb, and nearly all of them are priced correctly - unlike the shower of shite that is available on the Windows Mobile app outlets like Handango. Finally, to turn the tables on rabid Microsoft fanbois, the iPhone is fast becoming one of the best mobile platforms for gaming. Discuss.
"On another note, don't know who came up with this stupid Microsoft phone rumour - but they clearly know absolutely nothing about Microsoft's business.'
Must have been Ballmer then.
Mine's the one with the Dance Monkeyboy embroidery patch
At least Ballmer recognizes they're screwing up.
True confessions: I'm a Microsoft fan, and an avowed Apple hater. And I now own an iPhone 3GS. And love it.
I've had 3 CE-based PDAs and 2 WinMo phones... and got thoroughly sick of waiting for MS to acquire a clue and produce a mobile OS that's thumb-friendly from top to bottom, and not reliant on a vendor skin (e.g. putting lipstick on a pig.) I looked at the Pre and Android, but neither syncs with Outlook without relying on Google or Exchange.
There's several things I'd change about the iPhone, but there's no way I'd go back to WinMo right now.
Just maybe when my 2-year contract is up, MS will have produced a mobile OS that's worth a damn.