Anyone attending this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in an effort to discover Microsoft’s strategy to salvage its struggling mobile business was left disappointed. A surprising outcome, given the influence mobile now has on this gadgety show.
In an opening keynote lasting over an hour (that was labelled “dull” and “boring” by many news agencies and bloggers), Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Robbie Bach, president of the company’s entertainment & devices division, talked enthusiastically about Zune HD, Bing, Mediaroom TV software, Windows 7, tablet computing and its new Xbox 360 motion control technology, Project Natal.
Less than 60 seconds of those 70+ minutes were devoted to mobile. “This year, we brought the next iteration of Windows Phones to consumers with the launch of Windows Mobile 6.5,” Ballmer told delegates. “We continue to see new and exciting Windows Phones coming to the market every month. For example, here’s the new [HTC] HD2, which will be available through T-Mobile. Sharper, brighter and richer screen technologies really do make a difference. We will have a lot more to say about phones next month at Mobile World Congress.”
And so all eyes will turn to Barcelona in just six weeks’ time to see exactly how Microsoft plans to move on from Windows Mobile 6.5, essentially a ‘stopgap’ operating system that has been widely berated by the technology press. Recent unconfirmed reports suggest launch of Windows Mobile 7 has already been pushed back to the last quarter of 2010 (keep an eye on LG’s plans).
This could be too little, too late. Sales of smartphones running Microsoft’s Windows Mobile operating system (OS) declined by 20 percent in the last third quarter according to Gartner, despite a 13 percent increase in the total number of smartphone sales. Only 3.2 million smartphone units running the OS were sold in the third quarter, down from the 4.05 million units sold in the third quarter of 2008. As such, Windows Mobile had a 7.9 percent share of the total smartphone OS market in Q3 2009, out of a total of 41 million smartphones sold to end users. Microsoft’s mobile OS even trails Apple’s mobile software, available on only one device.
Meanwhile Google has done its best to rub salt in Microsoft’s wounds this week by generating a blaze of publicity over its mobile plans. To huge hype, the Internet giant launched its own Android-based handset (manufactured, somewhat ironically for the purposes of this blog, by HTC) and webstore, potentially pushing its fast-growing OS to a far wider audience.
No pressure then, Steve. Hasta Barcelona…
Justin Springham, Managing Editor