It's sink or swim time for Microsoft as they prepare to show off a preview of Windows Mobile 7 at next week's Mobile World Congress. In its current form, Windows Mobile doesn't fully compare to Google's Android or Apple's iPhone OS and the industry is well aware that Microsoft has been working on a full reboot for 7.0. Later this year, come launch, Microsoft better have their strategy down to a science or risk losing what's left of their mobile market share.
Steve Ballmer is keenly aware of how developers have become crucial to Window's success. Although Windows Mobile hasn't seen nearly as much support from third party developers as Android or the iPhone, I think it's become clear that today's phones are only as good as developers make them. Microsoft needs to bring their "A" game from the get-go, providing an incentive that shows developers why they should invest in Windows Mobile.
Apple and Google represent two very opposite ends of the app policy spectrum. Apple's as closed as you're going to see, allowing only applications onto the iPhone that they deem worthy. Google's just the opposite. Any developer can create any application for any Android device. Between these two lies a medium where the slightest approval process results in a better user experience while at the same time catering to developers with a clear line of communication. They've already been rumored to be heading down this path, so it's probably safe to say Microsoft is searching for that happy medium. Let's hope they find it.
Microsoft isn't all about giving away their software. Windows Mobile has required a licensing fee for those who wish to pack their devices with Microsoft's mobile OS. When Android came along, it shook up the idea that handset manufacturers had to pay for the software they wanted to use. Instead of charging for Windows Mobile licenses, consider following Android's path and give it away for free. That doesn't mean open source and it doesn't mean licensing to everyone, but bringing something more polished than Android to manufacturers that really make their devices shine could get them hooked. With no substantial developer support from the start, Microsoft needs to get their footprint onto as many quality handsets as possible to convince developers that this is a platform worth investing in.
Next week, all eyes are on Microsoft. They've got a chance to blow us away, bringing some new ideas to an increasingly competitive market. What strategy do you think Microsoft should take with Windows Mobile 7? High expectations? Us too.
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