Windows Mobile in the Dunk Tank

Most of the press coverage of Microsoft recently has obviously been focused on their on-off pursuit of the coy Yahoo!. Followed by lots of analyses of what Redmond needs to do now to catch up in Search and Advertising.

Mr Ballmer has also spoken a lot about how they understand that software is moving to cloud based services and that they are responding to this too.

But, as readers of MobHappy will know, the cloud is only half the future.

The other half is that the mobile will become the most important digital device on a number of different levels; more people have web connected mobiles than connected PCs – and that’s already happened; outside N America and Europe, the PC itself is going to be either leapfrogged or annihilated, which will profoundly affect the way that digital data is consumed everywhere; and in the words of my ongoing mantra, the mobile will do to the PC, what the PC did to the mainframe*.

This means that mobile needs to be central to Microsoft’s strategy if they are to have a future and a lack of success in this area means that their current problems are going to seem trivial in comparison.

Which is why their current sales on Windows Mobile must be worrying them more that they’re letting on, with their recent admirably jaunty “What? Problem? Us?” press conference, where they admitted missing their target by 10%, or some 2 million units in real money. However you spin this – and they tried with this great quote “It sounds like a large number of units, but actually, it’s less than about a month’s worth of a run-rate.” – it’s bad news.

There is some comfort in the rising market share – currently at 13% of smartphones. But let’s just look at that. According to AdMob Metrics which measures consumption of mobile web pages in the wild, yes 13% of pages were viewed worldwide on Windows Mobile devices, out of a potential 3.5 Billion. But already iPhone has a 5% share and don’t forget these Metrics (and Windows Mobile results) were before iPhone 3G kicked in and before it was available in so many more territories, which surely must take a chunk out of the future sales. They’ll also have to contend with Symbian going open source (who already dominate the market with a 58% share based on these Metrics), the rise and rise of the Crackberry by the besuited amongst us and possibly the launch of Android, although I’m not sure how influential that’s going to be now.

It actually gets even bleaker than this. As I observed above, some of the great changes in mobile are going to be led by markets where the mobile is already, and will continue to be, the primary digital device. But outside the US, Windows Mobile is nothing. Look again at the Metrics and while Windows has a healthy slug of 27% of the US, in the other top markets for mobile web consumption, it’s insignificant, with the best success coming in the UK, where they have a measly 4% share**.

I don’t wish to add to their troubles and certainly take no pleasure in observing this. However, it’s far more important that Microsoft gets their mobile strategy sorted out than worrying about Search – as it’s no less than a matter of medium-to-long-term survival. I’d suggest that Windows Mobile probably isn’t going to be the answer and they need to think of a radical and brave new direction to assure their future in a world where the mobile is rampant.

* If you’re not a regular reader, please don’t bother to point out that the PC is irreplaceable for tasks like writing a document, preparing a presentation or editing video. If you dock your mobile into a monitor and keyboard combo (using today’s technology), you don’t need a PC.

** There may be other markets where Windows Mobile might be doing better and please let me know in a comment if you have access to knowledge that I don’t. But overall, I don’t think this is unrepresentative of the state Windows today.

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