Daniel Eran Dilger
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Why Microsoft Will Slaughter Its Windows Mobile and PC Partners, and What it Means for Apple and Google

Daniel Eran Dilger

If you’re thinking that Microsoft’s reported plan–to pit Windows Mobile 6.5 against Android and then wait for another year to issue Windows Mobile 7 as its “iPhone killer”–sounds inane, wait till you hear what the company intends to do to its current mobile partners. It’s a brutal strategy that promises to radically change both the smartphone and PC landscape.

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The Windows Mobile Roadmap.

Microsoft hasn’t yet formally announced the “dual-mobile OS” strategy that DigiTimes reported to be in the cards. Steve Ballmer just finished castigating Google for adopting a dual-OS strategy with Android and Chrome OS, but Ballmer also seemed to be ignorant that his own company already maintains a “dual-OS” strategy for PCs and mobiles, even if they’re both branded as Windows.

We don’t have to speculate about the certainty of the DigiTimes story however; the company has already released enough roadmaps to make the new report uncontroversial. This spring, at Mobile World Congress, Microsoft released Windows Mobile 6.1, an ineffectual update that fixes some bugs, and then officially announced the release of 6.5 for the end of this year.

That update promises to deliver the first functional version of Pocket Internet Explorer, the same browser Microsoft has been touting, but not demonstrating, to be part of the Zune HD release. Windows Mobile and the Zune HD are both based upon the same underlying operating system.

Sometime in 2010, Microsoft says it will release Windows Mobile 7 (originally promised in late 2009), with support for features comparable to the 2007 iPhone, including support for capacitance touch screens rather than the stylus tap screens used by Windows Mobile devices that have some kind of screen sensitivity (devices that were once called “Windows Smartphone,” like the Motorola Q, don’t have any sort of touch or tap screen input, just external buttons).

Windows Mobile 6.5 shows clever burst of originality. Haha no.
Microsoft’s Zune, Vista, and Windows Mobile 7 Strategy vs the iPhone
Did Microsoft kill Android at Mobile World Congress 2009?

Microsoft’s Basic Vaporware Strategy.

That Windows Mobile roadmap sounds more like a scenic route for Microsoft, which has rapidly lost mobile platform market share (just a few years ago, it could claim a 24% share of smartphones, now it’s down to around 9%) and has been embarrassed by the rapid rise of the last three generations of iPhone.

How can it possibly afford to piss away another full year with just incremental improvements to its crusty old Windows Mobile platform before delivering its promised vaporware panacea? Oh wait, that’s the company’s normal business plan: deliver crap into the market and then float a toxic cloud of promises that kills off superior products until there’s no options left but to buy Microsoft’s crap.

After several years of this, Microsoft’s crap hardens into something that can be used to make tools or start fires, allowing the company to continue selling its crap without competition. This worked well for Windows on the PC desktop and in the server market, but isn’t working well at all in consumer devices. Windows Mobile and the Zune and the Xbox are all failing to kill off their competitors, outsell them, or even make much of a profit after a decade of trying.

CES: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
1990-1995: Microsoft’s Yellow Road to Cairo

Microsoft Plans a Sneak Attack, Gets a Waterloo.

Microsoft has learned that the Windows vaporware strategy isn’t working at all in music players and cell phones (and in fact isn’t even working that well on the PC desktop anymore, either, as the Vista disaster indicates). This calls for change.

Three years ago, Microsoft decided to shake things up in the Windows Media Player / PlaysForSure business by introducing the Zune to compete directly with Apple’s iPod. It assured its partners that, somehow, the Zune would only compete with Apple’s products and would have no effect on existing sales of PlaysForSure players.

This wasn’t true of course, and nobody believed it at the time outside of a few gullible pundits who just repeat the company’s talking points. It was pretty clear that if Microsoft built its own music player, there would be no way other vendors could compete with their own Microsoft-platform devices. Sure enough, while the Zune had no impact on the iPod at all, it stomped PlaysForSure into the ground and made all of Microsoft’s hardware MP3 partners out to be rubes.

Had Microsoft been able to sacrifice its backstabbed partners and use their bodies to create a pile that it could climb atop and battle the iPod, the PlaysForSure killing spree might have made some sense. All that really happened is that Microsoft proved itself wildly incapable of delivering its own hardware, marketing it, merchandizing it, supporting it, advancing it, and building any sort of installed base.

Since Microsoft’s core competency and basic business model is billowing vaporware smoke, the Zune’s crushing collapse could only clear the air, making the path for rival competitors even easier. The incompetent Zune only made the iPod family look better than it already did.

The Spectacular Failure of WinCE and Windows Mobile

Microsoft Plans the Same Sneak Attack Again.

Back to Windows Mobile: Microsoft now finds itself in the same position in smartphones today as it was in MP3 players in 2004. Back then, its plan for dominating the music player market using a licensed operating system and DRM mechanism were slowly failing to congeal even as Apple was enjoying wild success with its iPod.

Microsoft planned to out-do the iPod by offering support for video and perhaps games and various other vaporware ideas. Apple incrementally delivered photos, then video, then gaming and podcasts, and eventually apps, an online software store, touch controls, and a web browser, all things Microsoft has struggled to copy while it perpetually remains a year or two behind, stymied by problems the company first blamed on its partners and eventually tacitly admitted were its own fault when the Zune failed to gain any traction under Microsoft’s full control.

Today, Microsoft sits in a very similar position in smartphones: unable to even define a vaporware vision of the future that hasn’t already been delivered by Apple. Does it retrench to rally the support of its partners, at least those that haven’t yet abandoned Windows Mobile as their flagship mobile platform (as Sony Ericsson and Samsung have)?

According to the DigiTimes report, Microsoft will take on the currently nonexistent threat posed by Google’s Android using the Windows Mobile 6.5 release, the only software it has any hope to actually ship this year. That software doesn’t offer anything comparable to iPhone experience however, so next year’s Windows Mobile 7 will need to hang out as a vaporware ghost, attempting to scare buyers from getting the iPhone.

Microsoft will then purportedly continue to sell Windows Mobile 6.5 alongside 7.0, but somehow they won’t compete with each other, just one taking on Android while the other aims at the iPhone. That’s a pathetic strategy, but pathetic circumstances call for pathetic measures.

What is less pathetic and more hysterical is the other, “less-openly reported” strategy Microsoft hopes to enact in between. I’d call it a “closely guarded secret” but this is Microsoft, and there really aren’t any secrets about what the company plans to do.

Will Windows Mobile Play DOS to Apple’s iPhone?

Zune II: the Same Strategy Again.

Are you ready? Microsoft plans to dust off the Zune strategy and use it again. Under a project known as Pink, Microsoft plans to release its own mobile phone based on elements of its Zune HD and Windows Mobile 7.

This too sounds about like the best of what one could expect Microsoft to do, if only the company hadn’t already tried this and ended up killing off its remaining partners without actually establishing its own sales. The only difference this time around is that Windows Mobile has fewer partners than PlaysForSure had, giving Pink fewer bodies to climb on top of to battle the iPhone 4.0 a year from now.

This does, however, explain why HTC, the Taiwanese company that has built 80% of all Windows Mobile phones, has publicly announced plans to ship half of its phones next year using Android. Motorola, once hailed by Steve Ballmer as producing a Windows Mobile phone that was cheaper than the iPhone (the Q, and it really wasn’t), is also done with Windows Mobile and has officially moved toward Android.

It also explains why Sony Ericsson and Samsung, both of whom tried to rival the iPhone over past years using fancy new hardware running Windows Mobile behind a custom UI burka, abandoned those efforts and have since retooled with new flagship phones running Symbian.

Microsoft is planning to annihilate the Windows Mobile market so that it can fire a single shot at the iPhone with all it has left. It’s no doubt prepared to do this because it recognizes that Windows Mobile has been a failure over the last decade. Despite the Zune being a major failure relative to the iPod, it is at least offering the potential of someday earning Microsoft some hardware profits, something Microsoft’s PlaysForSure partners were never going to do for it.

Microsoft: HTC has made 80% of all Windows Mobile phones

The Second Slaughter.

Slaughtering its Windows Mobile partners will be even easier than killing off PlaysForSure; there’s hardly any left. However, once Microsoft enters the ring with the only viable Windows Phone (as it will be calling it), it will be the only mobile running the antiquated Pocket IE, have no installed base to build anything upon (take a wild guess if WiMo 7 and its apps will work on today’s WiMo phones!), and will have no hardware vendors pushing it, a luxury Microsoft now enjoys with LG and HTC phones, which still sell in some quantity.

This almost requires Microsoft to build out its own copycat retail stores (were you wondering why?) so that it can attempt to sell the Windows Phone and the Zune to customers without any distracting Android, Symbian, and RIM alternatives, and particularly no iPods or iPhones around. However, building out a nationwide network of retail stores will literally cost Microsoft billions, and there is more than a significant risk of failure.

With Apple aggressively pushing down the cost of mobile devices and software, there won’t be fat margins for Microsoft to earn on its own hardware or its software. Microsoft will basically be left trying to create more loss leader Xbox-businesses without any potential for taking a cut of $60-$80 game titles.

Microsoft to open new retail stores like Apple
Video Game Consoles 2007: Wii, PS3 and the Death of Microsoft’s Xbox 360

The Third Slaughter.

This will subsequently make it tempting, if not simply necessary, for Microsoft to release its own PC in order to keep its retail stores afloat, just as every other retailer sells its own house brand. After killing off its PlaysForSure partners and Windows Mobile partners, how secure will HP, Dell and Acer be in thinking that Microsoft won’t take away their businesses as well? After all, it makes no sense for Microsoft to operate retail stores that do nothing but lose money while its PC makers profit.

This obvious eventuality for PC makers has them scrambling for alternatives already. Linux proved to be weakly popular for Acer when its netbooks first arrived, and both HP and Dell have toyed with building Linux-powered products. However, none of the big three PC makers have any special competency in software, let alone building a platform.

This presents another opportunity for Google, offering Chrome OS to serve the same need in PC devices that Android hopes to deliver in smartphones. If successful, Google could inherit the DOS throne, becoming the mass market operating system vendor without actually making any of the money Microsoft has extorted throughout its reign as the PC software platform monopoly.

But what if Google fails? What if Android can’t manage to deliver a phone that is broadly popular, and what if Chrome OS fails to capture the market for the low end of PCs? The desktop operating system as we know it is far too complex to develop from scratch in a half decade, as witnessed by the decade long efforts to build Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X. That leaves little hope of a magical deus ex machina alternative dropping from the sky.

Will Google’s Android Play DOS to Apple’s iPhone?
Myth 6: iPhone Developers will Flock to Android
Myth 7: iPhone Buyers will Flock to Android

What Might Happen?

This leaves Apple an enormous potential for expanding the Mac installed base, potentially leaving it and Microsoft locked in a fight over the huge, if plateauing, PC market. With Microsoft weakened, Apple could potentially begin licensing Mac OS X to other PC vendors, something that isn’t viable for the company today.

Alternatively, Apple could sell a Mac OS X application environment that ran on top of a basic GNU/Linux system installed by future PC vendors. This might play out somewhat like OpenStep attempted to do: create a rich operating environment that could run on top of any modern operating system.

More likely though, Apple will continue to transition the conventional PC market from cheap hardware running sloppy and ugly software to one more like the auto market, where vendors sell finished goods rather than fusing two separate products together, poorly, from awkwardly partnered companies.

Why OS X is on the iPhone, but not the PC

In fact, Apple is almost certain to continue developing integrated products where the hardware and software fit together seamlessly, from iPods to iPhone to tablets to notebooks to workstations. We’ll likely see Windows and its “my OS with your hardware” business model slowly fade away, leaving Microsoft to build its own competing Zune, Windows Phone, and Windows PCs against Apple’s.

PC competitors, from HP to Dell to Acer, are most likely to begin copying RIM and Palm’s strategy in the smartphone space, building a customized shell on top of Java or Linux to differentiate them from both Microsoft’s Windows and Apple’s Mac OS X. The computing world will rewind back into the late 80s, when vendors like Acorn, Atari, and Commodore could compete with their own integrated systems in a pre-Windows world.

This is already happening in the smartphone space, where the winners are clearly RIM and Apple, the Palm Pre looks to have some potential, and Android, Symbian and Windows Mobile are all struggling to keep themselves afloat as “my OS, your hardware” platforms.

What about compatibility, the main reason everyone flocked to Microsoft’s PC platform in the first place? Well, today we have the web, where standards-based apps can run regardless of the OS platform. Tomorrows web will enable even more sophisticated web applications, and there will also be customized, native apps for each platform, just as today’s smartphones are all achieving basic competency on the web while attempting to each offer a native platform, too.

It’s also possible something dramatically unforeseen might happen and change the course of the tech industry in a way that is difficult to comprehend or fathom from our current perspective. Speaking as a tech futurist, I am of course compelled to ignore any such possibilities. What do you think the future holds?

How Apple Is Changing the PC Software World… Back

  • HCE

    @ChuckO

    Your point is well taken – however, we cannot say whether Android is merely being dragged in Apple’s wake or whether the initial figures are a start of something bigger. I am not saying anything one way or another. I am merely pointing out two things

    1. The initial sales of the Android platform aren’t as terrible as some are making it out to be. It is, in fact, not that different from sales of the first generation iPhone.

    2. A key part of the Android strategy is to give users a lot of choice – it is only now that that part of the strategy is beginning to materialize. Until now, you had one handset on a very limited number of carriers. By late 2009/early 2010, all that will change.

    It is only now that Android has all its cards on the table. If, over the next year, they get left behind while Apple grows strongly, we will know that the success of Android was merely a side-effect of Apple’s success. If they also grow strongly, we can conclude that Android has established a strong following of its own.

    I’m not drawing any conclusions – just pointing out that drawing conclusions at this stage is premature.

    – HCE

  • AvantKore

    @HCE

    You are wrong on both account.

    1. the same can not be said about Android. as of G1, to some extent, yes. But the Magic aka the G2 aka the MyTouch 3G began to hit the shelf back at April in Spain. That is the Android story of 09Q2.

    And though Canalys didn’t publish a 09Q1 smartphone market share graph, the fact is HTC only managed to sell its 1 millionth G1 late April, considering G1′s life-span and it was the only Android device on the market 09Q1, you do the math. a 0.5M estimation would be quite generous. And the original iPhone’s 08Q1 number is 1.7M, I would say the contrast indeed is DRAMATIC.

    2. iPhone’s 07Q3 worldwide smartphone share is about 3.5%, a year later when the 3G launched, Apple managed to sell 6.8M in one quarter, captured 13% of the smartphone market.

    I’m afraid you didn’t squint at your data long enough. go back try again.

  • HCE

    @AvantKore

    1. At the end of Q2 09, the Magic was available only in Spain, UK, Netherlands, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong. This – while not inconsiderable, represents a very small fraction of worldwide sales. In the rest of the world, the only Android handset that was available in Q2 09 was the HTC Dream (aka T-Mobile G1). I doubt if the Magic made that much of a difference to Android sales in Q2.

    2. So what if the iPhone’s market share in Q3 07 was 3.5 percent? I’m not trying to say that Android is doing better than the iPhone. All that the figures demonstrate is that, in the first year after launch the two platforms had pretty similar market share. If you actually read what I have written, you’ll find that I have said many times that the only point I am trying to make is that it is too early to write off Android just yet. The iPhone had its big jump in market share when the 3G was released. In the case of Android, it isn’t any single model that is going to cause the market share jump (if it happens at all, that is), it is going to be the cumulative sales of the 20-30 new models that are due to be released between now and early next year. Check back in a year and if Android hasn’t shown any significant growth, we can write them off as a minor player.

    Oh – and quit trying to read more into my posts than what I actually wrote.

    – HCE

  • ChuckO

    HCE,
    I hope Android and/or Palm give Apple a good fight. Apple needs some strong competition. I don’t think either of them have Apple’s unique mix of strengths though. I agree with Dan that Apple’s proven strength in OS’s is something Android and Palm are going to have a hard time competing with never mind adding in their industrial design and marketing skill and the oft mentioned vertical integration with their other products. I think they are more likely to end up with what Roger McNamee kind of predicted for Palm: doing well on the leftovers.

  • HCE

    @ChuckO

    I am an iPhone (and Mac) user at present but I am not wedded to any platform. Like you, I hope that Android and Palm (and everybody else as well) come out with something that challenges Apple. Unfortunately, the only one I have some degree of confidence in is Android. Nokia and RIM might have a shot as well – particularly in the business user space. But as far as I am concerned, Android is the only one that *might* have a chance of challenging the iPhone as a multi-purpose mobile platform.

    – HCE

  • AvantKore

    @HCE

    No, they are everything but similar.

    I just debunked your market share “similarity” myth as a matter of fact.

    Mind you the 3.5% number was the iPhone’s debut, did G1′s first full quarter run a comparable number I didn’t know of?

    G1 launched in October 08, it’s not even one year old, but it might as well be dead.

    Not to mention iPhone back then was a much much more expensive device.

    Also I’m not saying Android will certainly fail, it’s just up until now, it’s kinda bit of a flop.

    And your numbers are WRONG! I don’t need to read into anything.

    You were utterly, plainly, painfully WRONG about the market share comparison. That’s all.

  • HCE

    @AvantKore

    No point continuing this argument, so consider this my last post. I don’t have the time to look up every stat out there but nothing you have produced shows that the original iPhone ever got much more than 3-4 percent market share worldwide. That seems to be a little more than the market share for Android but not by all that much. Yes, you can give whatever excuses you want – the iPhone was more expensive, it wasn’t released everywhere, it was only 2G etc etc. I can come up with a similar set of excuses for Android – the platform was immature, given that the iPhone was already out there, the device itself was clunky, it was released in the US on the smallest carrier with the least developed 3G network etc etc.

    I’m curious – what would it have taken for you to not call Android a flop? Did you seriously think a brand-new platform could go from 0 to 10 percent market share in 8 months? Note that I am NOT calling Android a success – I’m merely saying that it had a decent start and that the next year or so will decide its success or failure.

    – HCE

  • AvantKore

    @HCE

    Nitpicking aside, if I have to choose one mobile device other than iPhone, I might as well choose HTC Hero or a Bold/Tour. And if we are talking about smartphone OSs, Android will no doubt be my second choice.

    But the fact is Nokia’s atrocious symbian still controls half of the market, and I blame Android for that. Google just have so much going on here and there, and HTC always tries to cut corners, so 3 quarters later, we still have a somewhat beta OS and 3 incrementally better but hardly exciting phones.

    Apple with its one phone model have did its due part eroding Symbian and WinMo’s market. Android was supposed to corner these two dinosaurs from the other end, but it so far did rather poorly.

  • AvantKore

    @HCE

    I don’t need to excuse iPhone. Any iPhone related number more often than not would be seen as amazing.

    On the other hand, Android desperately needs a full time cheerleader as of now. Fortunately Google’s hype machine is nothing short of horse power. So Android is still afloat and apps keep coming in though generally also half-assed as the platform itself.

  • HCE

    @AvantKore

    > But the fact is Nokia’s atrocious symbian still controls half of the
    > market, and I blame Android for that.

    I’m not sure how this is Android’s fault. For cryin’ out loud, the platform was launched less than a year ago. Not to mention that the multi-vendor, multi-device model that Google is going with takes more time to build up a head of steam than Apple’s vertically integrated model. Until very recently the “multi-device, multi-vendor” model had precisely one vendor and one device. Say what you will about Symbian but they do offer unparalleled choice. With the new Android devices that are hitting the market now and those that will hit the market in the next few months, Android will begin to offer the kind of choice that Symbian does. Give them a little time – this is a marathon, not a sprint. I suspect that even with Google and Apple firing on all cylinders, Nokia will remain the #1 smartphone vendor for the next 2-3 years at the very least.

    As regards your other points, yes, Android 1.0 was kinda beta but 1.5 is a lot better (and frankly, should have been what they released as 1.0). There are a couple of nice updates that should be ready by the end of the year. I agree that the HTC Hero is the nicest of the Android handsets so far and there are some handsets that look even better that should be here soon. The Sony-Ericsson Xperia X3 (aka Rachael) seems to be the most drool-worthy so far.

    Time will tell how this all shakes out. Cheers.

    – HCE

  • David Dennis

    I’m curious, I’ve seen a lot of iPhones floating around here but the Nokia smartphones I see are unappealing, and as far as I can tell nobody buys them. Where does their impressive market share come from? Is this a European/Asian thing?

    I’ve heard buzz around the web about iPhone, Android, Palm and RIM, but nothing at all about Nokia except the occasional (not particularly complimentary) review. Who are the Nokia customers?

    The upcoming Android devices seem remarkably similar to me. They are all tall and thick, with large hardware keyboards. They look a bit clunky, sort of like the anti-iPhone. I don’t see much benefit for a large ecosystem of devices which are all the same.

    I would probably like the Android keyboards better than the truly wretched Pre keyboard, but I like portrait mode far more than Landscape. Someone needs to make a device large enough for a good portrait keyboard but tall enough for a iPhone-sized display. That’s probably why Blackberry is so successful; their keyboards beat the competition but I don’t like the puny displays.

    It will be interesting to see how much money I can make on Pre apps. The market is much, much smaller but it shouldn’t be too hard to be noticed. Guess I’ll find out in about a month!

    D

  • Pingback: Canalys: iPhone outsold all Windows Mobile phones in Q2 2009 — RoughlyDrafted Magazine()

  • HCE

    @David Dennis

    Check out the latest Canalys report – http://www.canalys.com/pr/2009/r2009081.htm – you’ll see that Nokia is by far the largest smartphone vendor in Asia/Pacific and EMEA. Pretty much all Nokia smartphones run Symbian. If anything, Symbian’s position in Asia is even stronger than its position in Europe. The #2 and #3 vendors in Asia (Sharp and Fujitsu) are also Symbian foundation members.

    Regarding Android phones, there are plenty of devices coming with an iPhone-like form factor and no hardware keyboard – check out the HTC Magic, HTC Hero, Samsung Galaxy, Sony-Ericsson Xperia X3 and Acer A1.

    – HCE

  • Pingback: Canalys: iPhone outsold all Windows Mobile phones in Q2 2009 | iPhone x 3()

  • things

    There are two things that i think you have overlooked that will drastically change the picture your are painting:

    1) Citrix and the (re-)arrival of the PC as a dumb terminal.
    I know that at my work (a UK local government authority – not a typical follower of bleeding edge tech…) that a fair bit of investigation has gone into replacing our desktop pc’s with Citrix client that enables a far better managed environment for our IT Dept to support. This reduces the need and cost of having individual windows instals on each machine – and individual copies of ms office. While most people use word/exce/powerpoint daily the number of concurrent users is far lower.

    We already have a this set-up on many of our public facing pc’s (at libraries and contact centre – for the public to use).

    Its also how we deal with remote (or home) working. We login via a browser (a pre installed ie plugin at present-others are available i believe).

    If we are looking at breaking the MS ties – then others will be. MS must be looking at this scenario and where it leaves them.

    And the idea of a citrix sessions is that once logged in we get the icons of the apps we are allowed to use, and the directories that we are allowed to access.

    It is almost ‘cloud’ computing – but in our own network.

    Which brings me on the second ‘missed’ bit…

    2) Apple’s huge new data centre

    By all accounts (which means rumour: this is apple…) this data centre is enormous. And while many are suggesting this is just a bigger home for the itunes – others are quite rightly pointing out that that the spec’s that have been made public knowledge do appear to go way beyond anything they have need for presently. And they have MobileMe – something that i was always curious about was the lack of ‘apple’ branding to it: not tied to Mac, or an i product.

    Adobe already have an online photoshop (www.photoshop.com) that is supposed to be replacing the home user version of photoshop. And we have the google apps. And MS are supposed to be making the next version of Office more integrated with the web…

    What if this data centre is apple’s home for their solution: and you can get a Mac experience just by having a mobileme account and a modern browser.

    These two developments will reduce the need for MS in the work environment, allow your dells and hp’s to still provide cheap boxes with the bare minimum needed to get up and running and log in – be it to a citrix client, or just online.

    A MS built windows PC would look like a last generation dinosaur – while an Mac would still be the high end desirable commodity it is now.

  • John E

    look all you guys, it is still too early in this 2nd generation smartphone era to identify conclusive trends like you are trying to do from a few quarters sales data. all we can say now accurately is:

    - the iPhone, thanks to being the first, is a mature third edition product now (all its initial bugs and limitations have been fixed and there are scads of apps), and it is selling very well, thanks also to its mature near global distribution network (excepting only China) no other product can match yet.

    - Android phones are few in number and limited in distribution to date, with a second edition of improved products and presumably more apps arriving soon. so not surprisingly, sales have been modest so far, and it is too soon to project any trends from them. but the number of models available should expand a lot in the coming year, and that could make a big difference quickly in total sales – or not.

    - RIM’s only 2nd gen smartphone is the Storm, and as an initial model it had significant issues. a new edition is coming soon. so while RIM is doing very good with its 1st gen Blackberries commanding their market niche, it is too soon to tell how RIM will do beyond that niche. but RIM does have staying power and can’t be counted out.

    - which staying power Palm does not have. Pre sales to date have been disappointing, and this first edition product has issues that need to be fixed. the fate of the Pre is definitely uncertain. it could be overwhelmed by all the big guys as soon as next year.

    - Symbian under Nokia has tons of staying power of course, but its initial 2nd gen smartphone, the N97, has many issues too. Symbian needs until next year to catch up with its other free open source competitor, Android. only then will we see what full impact it might have, leveraging Nokia’s global market strength in feature phones and 1st gen smartphones.

    - and then there is Windows Mobile. but MS won’t have a true 2nd gen product until WinMo 7 is released next year. how ready it will be and how many OEM”s will pay for it compared to the free Android and the free Symbian is anyone’s guess, and this whole RDM article was about its prospects.

    think of it all as a horse race, and we just coming out of the second turn going into the backstretch. quote your odds and place your bets, but there is no actual pattern among the field to use as a trend predictor yet.

  • John E

    … except of course that right this moment the iPhone has a big lead it is stretching out further.

    last month i was watching the tour de france. maybe that is a better metaphor, with it teams (like Android and Symbian), the breakaways (Apple), and the power of the peletron to catch up with the leaders as a group eventually, except for the few that get completely dropped and even eliminated (MS and Palm).

  • HCE

    @John E

    Agree with what you say for the most part except that I don’t think we are even close to the backstretch yet – to use your horse-racing analogy, we’re just out of the starting gate and haven’t quite made it to the first turn.

    – HCE

  • gus2000

    Microsoft is more like QE II than a speedboat; it is slow to change direction. Even if their habits and policies are self-destructive, they are simply unable to steer around the looming iceberg.

    IBM is a strong company today, but had to reinvent itself in the 90′s when it was looking over the precipice and many pundits were suggesting they exit the computer business. Apple looked over this same precipice as well, which was the impetus for Jobs’ return and the transition to OSX.

    Microsoft needs to make some tough decisions and big changes, but it will take a near-death experience to materialize it. Until then, they have no choice to but follow their traditional methods.

  • http://crankyoldnutcase.blogspot.com/ The Mad Hatter

    Dell states that 1/3 of their Netbooks ship with Ubuntu, and that returns are no higher than for Windows Netbooks. Qualcom showed an ARM netbook at Computex, which was running 780P video using Android as an OS. HP is known to have in house operating system projects, which while they are mostly aimed at servers, could be converted to desktop use. Several of the Taiwanese manufacturers have used Linpus and Xandros, both of which are terrible operating systems (but safer and more stable than Windows).

    Let’s face it. Anyone could come up with their own operating system in almost no time. For an example check out Moon OS, which started out as a one man project. It’s rather nice, and even runs on my antique Thinkpad P3-600.

    I don’t think that the hardware OEMs are all that worried. Options exist, and given a year’s notice, they will be fine. And by announcing the opening of their own stores, Microsoft has given them that warning.

    Of course that covers the low end of the market. The high end will remain Apple’s for at least the next 5 years.

  • ChuckO

    MS buys Dell and starts marketing their own computer. The new company is called “DellsoSoft”.

  • ChuckO

    How about Nokia and Microsoft? What’s up with that? Now that Nokia is building a MS Netbook and partnering to bring Office to Nokia smartphones could the next step be for those two to partner up on delivering the Zune phone? Therefore making up for Microsofts problems delivering hardware and Nokia’s inability to make a dent in the U.S.? What do you think of that?

  • http://crankyoldnutcase.blogspot.com/ The Mad Hatter

    Nokia and Microsoft? It’s a huge mistake on the part of Nokia in my opinion. Give it two years, and see how much market share Nokia has gained – I expect none, except what they can steal from the current Winmobile licensees.

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