Enterprise IT Watch Blog

Jul 15 2010   6:45AM GMT

Microsoft: Better slate than never?

Melanie Yarbrough Profile: MelanieYarbrough

No one has ever encouraged comparing apples to oranges, but what about Apple to Microsoft? Having won over consumers’ hearts and wallets, Apple is the company to beat and be compared to in laptops, operating systems, phones and tablets. Though admittedly late to the arena, Microsoft hasn’t yet given up on playing the game.

At this year’s MIX10, Microsoft gave developers and web designers a glimpse into their completely overhauled mobile operating system: Windows Mobile 7, slated to be available by the end of this year. It may sound familiar: there’s an app store, an almost desperate focus on social networking, touch screen, and push notification. There’s a detailed breakdown of Windows Phone 7 Series over at PC World.

You might expect a phone from Microsoft, a company recognized for its enterprise-friendliness, to follow that route and offer, finally, an enterprise-friendly, consumer-attractive phone. But is that the Tower of Babel of phones: “A Windows phone which can notify you every time Lady Gaga tweets? Please, it’s like watching an 80 year old take a 20 year old blond for a spin in his souped up Ferrari.” Microsoft is jumping on the consumer-friendly gadget bandwagon wholeheartedly. Is the key to Windows Mobile 7’s success with app developers, the people who are going to make these phones worth a second glance in the Android/iPhone dominated market? Nick Landry of Infusion Development seems hopeful, “The best development tools have always belonged to Microsoft.” They’ve got more than just your interest in mind, however. In Microsoft’s quest to provide everything you could want in a phone, they’ve dipped into their big bag of offerings; in each of the OS’s “hubs” (gaming, social networking, office) is a Microsoft product: Xbox Live, Sharepoint, OneNote.

Landry’s not the only one expressing optimism; in the Washington Post’s Post Tech, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, when asked about how they’ve fallen behind and plan to catch up, said:

We have a form factor, where we need to push with our hardware partners and silicon partners: the slate platform. Windows runs Windows apps. The key is that we actually have software technology now to drive the integration of software, hardware and silicon. It’s a little different story for phones, I’ve said this many time before: We missed. We just didn’t execute well. Now we are jamming hard. We’ll sell millions of units this year, but we’re not where we want to be. Relative to a lot of guys, a lot of guys have done a lot of nice work. But with Windows Phone 7, we are back in it. And those devices will ship within the next months.

Is this a make-or-break move for Microsoft in the mobile market, especially after the recent failure of the Kin? (The Microsoft Watch blog equated Kin’s abysmal failure to “spending $150 million to make a summer blockbuster, and you sell only $200.50 in tickets.” Yikes.)

Microsoft’s pulling out the big guns in other areas as well; during his keynote speech on Monday at WPC 2010, Ballmer announced that Windows 7 slates will be available by the end of 2010 as well. Despite the inevitable comparisons made between the iPad and other tablets being released, Microsoft’s angle is that their “slates will be sanctioned by corporate IT departments, enabling customers to use them at work and at home.” [From ZDNet]

Among the Microsoft partners listed were Asus, Dell, Samsung, Toshiba and Sony, who are expected to release Windows 7 slates this year, in a variety of form factors (keyboard, touch-only, dockstations, etc.). Noticeably missing from the list was HP who was supposed to be releasing a Windows 7 slate this year as announced in January.

With the upcoming switch-over from Windows XP to Windows 7 that’s been getting a lot of press, will it be more attractive for companies to streamline all of their devices with Windows 7? Or is Microsoft preventing this by targeting the consumer market more heavily?

We want to know what you think about Microsoft’s upcoming releases. Email me directly or let us know in the comments section.

Melanie Yarbrough is the assistant community editor at ITKnowledgeExchange.com. Follow her on Twitter or send her an email at Melanie@ITKnowledgeExchange.com.

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