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Microsoft hasn't set a timetable for Windows Mobile 7, but had been expected to launch it sometime in 2009. However, in February, Motorola's Jha said his company expected Windows Mobile 7 to arrive in 2010. And according to Microsoft watchers, Windows Mobile 7 devices aren't expected to arrive until April 2010 at the earliest. Microsoft has yet to release Windows Mobile 6.5, despite expectations that it would do so in February at the World Mobile Congress in Barcelona, Spain.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has acknowledged that the company needs to speed up Windows Mobile development. Microsoft earlier this year underwent an across-the-board reorganization of its mobile communications business in an attempt to jump start Windows Mobile development. But with new executives still settling into key management positions, that move could result in further Windows Mobile 7 delays, sources said.
One Microsoft channel partner says it's a scenario that has played out many times in the past in areas where the company trails the competition. "There's a definite pattern at Microsoft where the company works hard to compete and then takes its eye off the ball and has to restart," said the source, who requested anonymity. "It's seriously going to take Microsoft a long time to catch up in the mobile market."
If Pink continues to run into delays, it's not out of the question that Verizon could decide to back out of its partnership with Microsoft and choose a faster-moving partner. That would be a major blow to Microsoft's efforts to showcase the superiority of its licensing-based strategy to Apple's proprietary approach to the iPhone.
A Microsoft job posting in March offered some insight into what Microsoft hopes to achieve with Windows Mobile 7. "We aren't just building a me-too iPhone or RIM competitor; we're changing the way customers use and experience their device," the job posting read.
With Pink, "Microsoft wants to put a stake in the ground around what they think the phone of the future is going to look like; otherwise they'll be accused of continually trying to recapitulate the iPhone," said Michael Cherry, an analyst with Directions On Microsoft, a Kirkland, Wash.-based research firm.
That's an ambitious goal in the red-hot mobile industry. But Microsoft, which in 2008 missed its Windows Mobile sales target by 2 million licenses, needs to start hitting its Windows Mobile deadlines before entertaining notions of redefining the mobile industry.