Reports suggest that Microsoft will push two mobile operating systems at once to compete with Google's Android and Apple's iPhone, but are two heads better than one? I think Windows Mobile needs a sense of identity to win this war.
DigiTimes claims Microsoft will launch Windows Mobile 6.5 in October, followed by a touch-enabling upgrade in February 2010, citing a source with knowledge of Microsoft's roadmap. (Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer discussed this plan as far back as February.)
Windows Mobile 7 will launch in October 2010, but the old operating system won't go away, the sources say. It'll merely be sold as a cheaper alternative to the new, high-end OS. The idea is to fight Google's Android phones on the low end while taking on Apple's iPhone with the fancier Windows Mobile 7.
Microsoft hasn't commented on the report, except to say that it's on track to release a new mobile operating system in the autumn.
Forging an identity
True or not, the DigiTimes report underscores how Microsoft has failed to find a solid identity in the mobile market. The role Microsoft has traditionally played in the computer space - providing a flexible and widely-used operating system - is increasingly being occupied in mobile by its new worst enemy, Google.
The amount of support for Android has been pretty astounding so far, with Motorola, HTC, Samsung, Garmin-Asus and Lenovo all planning or releasing phones with Google's OS. Some of these manufacturers are using WinMo as well, but it's not the everyman Windows was for PCs. Perhaps that's due to 6.5's lethargic pace of development.
And while we're making comparisons to the computer market, it's worth noting that Apple thrives in the high end. A recent report by NPD found that Apple has 91 percent of the over-$1,000 PC market in the US. If computers are any indication, Microsoft will have a tough time taking over these waters in the mobile space.
I'm not saying a war on two fronts is a bad idea outright, nor am I declaring the new WinMo upgrades dead on arrival, but whatever Microsoft comes up with needs better sense of character than merely an alternative to every competitor.