Will Microsoft Keep 2 Windows Open in Mobile?

A report has surfaced that Microsoft will continue to offer Windows Mobile 6.5 even after it releases WinMo 7 next year.

The story, published in the Digitimes blog on Wednesday, quoted unnamed sources at handset makers in Taiwan.

Microsoft has been losing market share steadily in the mobile operating systems market, according to Gartner’s latest figures, but will it really resort to a dual-OS strategy to try to turn the tide?

In a related development, Microsoft has told application developers they can set their own prices for apps on its app store when that opens later this year — and it’s suggesting devs aim high.

Are Two OSes Better Than One?

The Digitimes blog quoted sources at handset makers in Taiwan as saying Microsoft will keep on offering Windows Mobile 6.5, but at a reduced price, after launching Windows Mobile 7 in the fourth quarter of 2010.

Windows Mobile 6.5 is expected to be launched this October.

The blog claims its sources cited Microsoft’s roadmap for Windows Mobile.

It says Windows Mobile 6.5 will aim to compete with Android phones, while the more advanced Windows Mobile 7 is intended to go up against the iPhone.

Microsoft Has Its No-Say

Microsoft would not speak directly about the Digitimes report.

“We have nothing new to say about future versions,” said Scott D. Rockfeld, a director in Microsoft’s mobile communication communications business. “As always, we remain 100 percent committed to Windows phones and to working with our partners to deliver great mobile experiences through software and services now and in the future.”

Microsoft is focusing on upcoming Windows phone launches this fall, Rockfeld told TechNewsWorld.

Microsoft and its partners are expected to launch a slew of Windows Mobile 6.5-powered phones soon.

The Stuff of Bad Dreams?

Will Microsoft really retain two mobile operating systems on the market at the same time, one of which being clearly less advanced than the other?

“I’m not so sure I’d put too much stock in this,” IDC senior research analyst Ramon T. Llamas told TechNewsWorld.

“This sounds absolutely stupid,” offered Julien Blin, principal analyst and CEO of JBB Research. “I don’t see the logic in this.”

It’s not likely that Microsoft will offer both mobile operating systems, discounting Windows Mobile 6.5, Blin told TechNewsWorld. “People will always go for the better operating system, and an upgrade is always better than the earlier version,” he said. “They won’t go for the older version just because it’s cheaper.”

Microsoft has been losing ground in the mobile operating system year over year, and had only 9 percent of the market in the second quarter of 2009, according to Gartner’s mobile handset and smartphone report for that period.

That’s probably partly due to its lack of adequate features. “Microsoft licensees HTC and Samsung continued to add features to their own interfaces on top of Windows Mobile to create more competitive products and make up for the usability constraints of the Microsoft platform,” Gartner principal analyst Roberta Cozza said in a statement.

About Windows Mobile

Windows Mobile 6.5 was a hit when it was demonstrated in February on new handsets from HTC, LG and Orange at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. At the time, Microsoft said it would release WinMo 6.5 this fall.

However, Windows Mobile 6.5 has been a disappointment, according to IDC senior research analyst Ryan Reith, who said the market is now looking to windows Mobile 7 instead.

Meanwhile, on its mobile application developer site, Microsoft is urging developers to create Windows Mobile apps.

At the Mobile World Congress 2009, Microsoft said Windows 6.5 will feature Windows Marketplace for Mobile, Microsoft’s own app store. It claimed developers had already built more than 20,000 applications for Windows phones.

Luring App Developers

In recent weeks, Microsoft has ramped up efforts to woo developers to create more mobile apps for Windows Marketplace for Mobile. The latest attempt was a statement on Wednesday that developers could charge what they think their app is worth.

Microsoft is also holding developer camps. The first WinMo DevCamp was held on Wednesday at the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Wa. Others will be held in Austin, Texas; London, England; New York; San Francisco; Singapore; and Toronto, Canada.

The Windows Mobile Team blog is also asking developers to port their iPhone apps to WinMo. In addition, Microsoft recently launched a competition to develop applications for its app store, the Race to Market Challenge.

Microsoft’s app store will be launched with Windows Mobile 6.5 in the fall, Todd Brix, Microsoft’s senior director for mobile platform services product management said on the Windows Mobile blog.

Microsoft’s efforts may not pay off, according to Blin of JBB research. “They don’t have 65,000 apps like the Apple App Store,” he said. “Mobile app developers will go where the money is, and that’s the Apple App Store.”

There will be more competition soon from Verizon’s app store. “Verizon’s collaborating with other carriers — China Mobile, Vodafone and others — to popularize their mobile app stores so developers could reach an even bigger market internationally,” Blin said.

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