Windows Mobile: Dead or Alive?

Apparently, someone is paying attention.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about how it’s a RIM BlackBerry and Apple iPhone country. Within a day or so I received an email from a PR woman representing Enterprise Mobile, a company formed in partnership with Microsoft to handle enterprise sales of Windows Mobile. I proclaimed Windows Mobile an also ran here in the States. They thought otherwise.

So here’s the U.S. market share from Q4 of 2007 provided by Canalys:
– RIM BlackBerry: 41%
– iPhone: 28%
– Windows Mobile: 21%
– All Others: 10%

(As an aside, I chose fourth quarter instead of 2007 annual numbers since iPhone wasn’t released until Q3. This way the numbers would be comparable.)

So the question I asked Mort Rosenthal, CEO of Enterprise Mobile, is after 11 years of developing a mobile operating system and being outpaced in half a year by iPhone, why can Microsoft succeed now? I wanted to know: was there a change in emphasis at Microsoft? Was the Windows Mobile OS becoming more important? Were RIM and Apple making big mistakes that, in his eyes, was going to change the market?

His responses: First, he discounts Apple in the enterprise as it is a consumer device that doesn’t have the level of security and IT support (beyond Exchange with OS 2.0) required.

Second, his conversations with IT professionals is that RIM does one thing really well — it does email. Windows Mobile is more strategic, meaning it does a wealth of things really well for the actual workers in the field.

Okay, those are good answers. I believe the first, not so much the second.

So I asked why, if Microsoft considers Windows Mobile so strategic, would it in essence outsource its enterprise sales, even one with a respected leader like Enterprise Mobile? Mort’s response: the deals are too small to interest Microsoft’s enterprise sales teams. Microsoft doesn’t want those deals to get lost in the shuffle.

While Mort had some good points and led me to believe that (maybe) this fight for the enterprise isn’t as over as I think, I didn’t exactly see Microsoft catching up to RIM any time soon either. After all, if the deals are so small that Microsoft sales team can’t focus on them, then how strategic can the business actually be? Based on my estimates, Windows Mobile accounted for a whopping 1.5% of Microsoft’s entire revenue!

I’ve believed for a long time that Microsoft developed a mobile OS as a place holder. When the market took off, Microsoft thought they would use their overall market position to steal sales. But while Microsoft was turning out relatively minor changes from Pocket PC 2000 through Windows Mobile 6, RIM jumped ahead of them. Way ahead.

Add to this threats in almost every aspect of Microsoft’s business and I’m having a hard time buying that Windows Mobile is going to be the winner — enterprise or otherwise. I just don’t see how the company focuses on 1.5% of their revenue when at least 70% of their revenue and MS’ computer dominance is being attacked by the likes of Apple, Google, Adobe, Nintendo, and Yahoo!, all at the same time.

Besides, I’ve talked to BlackBerry enterprise users, too. And all I ever hear is, “You can have my BlackBerry when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.”

4 thoughts on “Windows Mobile: Dead or Alive?

  1. Being a CFO of several companies, I’ve used the palm treo as my calculator for years.. and I need to upgrade to something… so my son tried the windows based Q and it was awful.. ate up memory, battery time, and it was slow and like all other windows based programs.. unstable… I am looking at the new Iphone or the black berry… by other son is using the blackberry and very happy with it… and it goes international, which is important to me… I am writing now to suggest you try and have the software for Iphone.. it is an emerging tool.. why be left out? I am very very happy to see you have it for blackberry.. so I think I will go there.. for now.. and let my wife work out the bugs before I do

  2. I’ve never owned a PPC, because I’ve managed to try several to catch a glimpse of the Windows Mobile OS performance and, also, I’ve been warned of their problems by long-run owners, especially its clumsy UI and frequent hotsync amnesia crisis. If Microsoft really thinks that it will prevail with such an OS, we will eventually see another OS platform demise.

    Speaking of demises, I’ve been using Palm OS for some 4 years by now; OK, I arrived late to the PDA scenery, and now using Palms is second to last in innovations. I gotta cry out my misery because I consider Palm OS an agile and efficient platform, and it’s turning sad to visit Palm-oriented websites and notice that many apps date back to 1998, 1997, and the like. Feel like I’m living in the wrong decade. But though, notwithstanding the lack of actual improvement over the years, I still believe that Palm OS is better than the Windows Mobile OS. I gotta say that Palm OS needs improvement, needs updating, not remaking. MS Windows for Mobile does need remaking, from scratch.

    I’ve tested several Blackberry models and my opinion is that, just as many others think, its one and best edge is email push. In fact, I believe it’s the only smarthone family that gets email push done right. But the tool is half of the solution, and the RIM server is the other half. A good question is why nobody else is following RIM’s steps into reliable email push. Set apart from the latter, Blackberries have me not astonished. As a Palm advocate, I expect too much from either a PDA or a smartphone, so the Blackberry’s capacity and ease to handle organizer-style data didn’t thrill me. Not me, who BTY am also a FranklinCovey advocate (so, I DO handle data). And one more thing: at least here in Mexico, the cellphone capabilities of all Blackberries… let’s say it politely, don’t thrill nobody. Here, the true ruler of the cellphone market is Nokia… period.

    Speaking of the iPhone, I’ve commented with my friends that I don’t believe the prophecy that it’ll fully replace competitors like the Treo family; I don’t believe it, not because I’m a Palm advocate, but because I believe that the iPhone is no replacement to a business smartphone in the first place. The iPhone and the Treo belong to different and separate technological pathways. The Palm was invented, the iPod was invented, and both eventually got a cellphone inside. But the Treo is a PDA, say a digital organizer, with a cellphone inside; it’s a productivity tool from the roots up. The iPhone is an iPod that went wireless; it’s an entertainment tool from the roots up. Now, a Treo can play music, video and the like, and the iPhone can convert measurement units and watch the Stock Exchange, but in each case those are additional capabilities that come “from the other side of the street”. Wanna test my opinion? It’s frequent that corporate employees get a smartphone for the job; smartphones like Blackberries, Treos, MotoQs, Nextels, … Have you listened of a company that’s delivering iPhones in the hands of their corporate force?

    Let´s see what’s about to happen next. I’ve enjoyed your blog.

  3. Hi Hal,

    Thanks for writing and thanks for reading. There are multiple ways of skinning this cat, so to speak. One is an enterprise-oriented approach, which has been RIM’s entry into the market. Another is a more consumer/entertainment approach to the market, which has been Apple’s perspective on the market. If you missed it, Michael Mace wrote a great article about mobile computing segmentation a while ago. It’s long but well worth a read:

    The question is: are there other customer segments not taken care of by these two? I’m not certain there is. Where do pro-sumers fit in? How about information users? Who am I missing?


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