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Microsoft's open architecture has many advantages, but it's difficult to achieve because of the investment it requires from Microsoft and its partners, says Dave Sobel, CEO of Evolve Technologies, a Fairfax, Va.-based Microsoft Gold partner. "When you try to be all things to all people, you can often get bogged down in development," he said.
The Windows Mobile situation is in some ways similar to the state of affairs in the Windows Client division during the development of Windows Vista.
Partners have observed that Microsoft is more organized under Steven Sinofsky, senior vice president for the Windows and Windows Live Engineering Group, than it was under Jim Allchin, former co-president of the Platforms & Services Division, who left the company in January 2007. And Windows 7 development has been a walk in the park compared to the difficult slog Microsoft endured with Windows Vista.
Microsoft has re-organized its Mobile Communications Business in a bid to speed up the pace of Windows Mobile development. Andy Lees was brought in last year as senior vice president, and former Microsoft Exchange executive Terry Myerson joined the group last December. In February, Microsoft moved Windows Media Center executive Joe Belfiore and Windows Home Server GM Charlie Kindel into the Windows Mobile team.
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.
That's a lofty and ambitious goal, but the reality is that Verizon is looking for game-changing phones to help counteract the success of the iPhone. If Microsoft's Pink project continues to run into delays, Verizon will likely back out and look for other partners. And if Verizon does manage to land the iPhone, that would throw salt in Microsoft's wounds.
But despite Microsoft's Windows Mobile struggles, and the potential collapse of the Pink project, the reality is that the mobile business is an enormous opportunity that isn't going away any time soon. If Microsoft can start meeting its Windows Mobile timetables, and if it can somehow find a way to avoid further Windows Mobile 7 delays, the company's goal of success in the consumer smartphone market is still within reach.
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