By January 11, 2009

The future for Windows Mobile

image After the recent Palm announcements this year, the launch of Google Android, Blackberry Storm and of course the iPhone 3G, Windows Mobile is beginning to look like the mobile operating system from the past. Is it going to disappear or come back stronger than ever to reclaim its place as the most powerful and flexible operating system of them all. Love it or hate it the iPhone has changed the face of mobile operating systems. Before the iPhone was released or even announced we had boring interfaces, Windows Mobile was stylus based and a pain to use, Blackberry was email on the go and nothing more, Nokia was well Nokia and Android was just a twinkle in Mr Googles eye.

Now we have a much greater choice of quality operating systems as everyone has taken a long hard look at what Apple have achieved and upped their game. As I said, love it or loathe it, the iPhone has had a massive effect on improving everyone’s favoured mobile operating system and the new Palm Pre can join this illustrious crew with great innovation and even though it has borrowed quite a few of the iPhones good points it has still managed to add a few extras, copy paste, MMS anyone.

So taking this into account, where does this leave Windows Mobile?

Well there are two distinct trains of thought on this one:-

1)  The pessimistic view, its all over Microsoft don’t care about Windows Mobile it’s not a profitable business and it will just disappear, Windows 7 is all that matters.

2) Microsoft are taking their time, rewriting Windows Mobile from the ground up to blow everything else out of the water, if Palm can produce what they have done with their resources, Microsoft can deliver a great new Windows Mobile experience.

The major problem for Microsoft is their route to market, they have deals with so many device manufacturers and mobile carriers that they have lost control of their devices, in fact they never had any. This is the major difference to Apple, Palm and for the moment Android.

Take Apple’s iPhone for instance, the hardware and the software is produced by Apple, everything that Apple creates for the iPhone has to work on one platform only, on one device form factor, one sized touch screen and one device with all the same buttons in the same places, so easy to develop applications for, create firmware updates for and also distribute updates for, compare that to Windows Mobile and we have way too many form factors, slide out keyboards, front facing keyboards, QVGA screens, VGA screens etc etc and soon the problems that Microsoft face become clearer and clearer. The more you have to accommodate different form factors and configurations the more diluted and sloppy the operating system will become.

Palm’s recently announced Palm Pre follows the Apple model, manufacture the hardware and the software and you have control over everything and can create the best experience. Google at the moment is following the same route but this year that will change as more and more manufacturers are jumping on the Android bandwagon it will soon be in the same position as Windows Mobile, different form factors, poor software updates as each manufacturer will be responsible for their own updates and much harder and more costly to develop for. That is why I believe Palm have the better product, well on the surface anyway, until we get them in our hands and can see for ourselves that is.

So what do Microsoft have to do if they really do want to stay in the game, be firm with manufacturers, reduce the number of form factors. Make a set of hardware minimums for example VGA screen, 128 MB or Ram, 3D acceleration etc, stop all the poor spec devices coming to market and providing poor experiences for end users, make it easier for developers to create great applications easily and without massive expense. A central application store is a must have these days, make it easy to buy and install apps and for developers to show their hard work off.

This year Microsoft are supposedly providing a few updates one being IE 6 on 6 which will see a new browser with flash and Java support and early indications are that it is nothing special. Another update that has been strongly rumoured is Zune software, this would be a major boon for Windows Mobile if it does indeed happen as the media side is in great need of a better user interface, the problem though is still deeper than that, we need a full refresh of the complete UI it is no longer in the same league as the new boys.

Windows Mobile 7 is coming, we know that, but what we don’t know is when, but one thing is for sure, it has to be good to save Windows Mobile, and I for one really hope it will be, Windows Mobile has a special place in my heart, it’s what started it all for me and hooked me on mobile technology and for all I love my iPhone now, Windows Mobile just has to flirt with being good again and I will be back like a shot.

Hopefully we will hear some positive news in February during the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona, if not, then maybe it really will be too little too late. What do you think ?

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Posted in: Phones

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Seasoned tech blogger. Host of the Tech Addicts podcast.
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