Speaking Thursday at Microsoft's annual Financial Analysts Meeting, Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices division, said it has been "a challenging year" for Windows Mobile, but help will arrive this fall when Windows Mobile 6.5 devices start hitting the market.
"You will have a very rich browsing experience on [Windows Mobile] 6.5 devices that will give you access to more Web sites than you will be able to get to on an iPhone that will work actively and work well. It really is a much better experience," Bach told analysts.
It's a bizarre statement because there isn't a Windows Mobile device on the market today that comes close to matching the iPhone's popularity. And it comes a week after Steven Hegenderfer, group product manager of Windows Mobile, said the head start in mobile applications that Apple has gained with its App Store might not last.
Also strange is that Bach chose to play up Windows Mobile 6.5, which Microsoft has described as a stop-gap release until Windows Mobile 7 reaches completion. However, Windows Mobile 7 has been repeatedly delayed and devices aren't expected until spring of 2010 at the earliest.
Microsoft desperately needs a home run-type of device to keep pace with the likes of the iPhone, Palm Pre, and BlackBerry, but Windows Mobile 7 delays have put its top secret Pink smartphone project in danger of being scuttled. Meanwhile, there are signs mobile industry partners like Verizon and Motorola are shifting their attentions to competing devices and operating systems.
Bach acknowledged the Windows Mobile struggles and told FAM attendees Microsoft will solve them, although he didn't offer details on exactly how the company plans to do so. "We have to do a better job executing and operating our business," Bach told analysts. The message is similar to the one Steve Ballmer offered in March to attendees of Microsoft's Public Sector CIO Summit, where he said Microsoft needs to accelerate its execution in the mobile market.
Microsoft this week began accepting application submissions for Windows Marketplace For Mobile, its counterpart to Apple's App Store. Microsoft says it'll offer clear guidelines to developers and a top-notch customer experience to end users, apparently targeting areas of weakness in the App Store, which is beginning to suffer side effects of its wild popularity.
Microsoft's mobile struggles are being magnified by the positive industry response to Windows 7. But given the ongoing weakness in the PC market, as evidenced by steep quarterly declines in Windows Client revenue, Microsoft will have to figure out its mobile problems soon so as not to fall irreversibly behind in this space.
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