Microsoft May Be Fast-Tracking Windows Mobile 7

a Tuesday report from ZDNet Asia

The program, code-named 'Maldives,' looks like an effort to shrink the window between Microsoft's release to manufacturing of Windows Mobile and when it arrives on new devices. In the case of Windows Mobile 6.5, Microsoft released it in May but devices didn't arrive until October. Windows Mobile 7's formal launch is slated for the third quarter of 2010, according to the report.

There have been plenty of rumors about Windows Mobile 7 launching sometime next spring, but this latest one suggests that Microsoft knows it's far behind in the mobile space and is trying to speed things up. Microsoft executives haven't said much about Windows Mobile 7 aside from suggesting that it will put Microsoft back into the smartphone race.

While Windows Mobile 6.5 devices support resistive touch screens, Windows Mobile 7 will support capacitive touch screens, according to the report. Capacitive touch is supported in the iPhone and Palm Pre, and allows users to zoom in and out using a pinching motion. It's also a key feature that could have helped in the development of Microsoft's struggling Pink smartphone project.

In March, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told the D: All Things Digital blog that Microsoft would look to add capacitive touch to Windows Mobile devices in a more cost effective way than Apple has done. "The way Apple does touch drives cost. They way they do it on the iPhone is not an inexpensive component. We'll do it in a way that you can afford to do it on most phones," Ballmer said in the interview.

Sponsored post

Recently, Ballmer and other Microsoft executives have spoken frankly of their missteps with Windows Mobile. Ballmer told a meeting of venture capitalists that Microsoft had revamped the Windows Mobile team with new talent, and vowed to right the Windows Mobile ship.

Scott Stanfield, CEO of Vertigo Software, a Richmond, Calif.-based software development firm, believes Microsoft has the ability to launch a comeback in the mobile space. "They've put a lot of money into Windows Mobile and taken a long view," Stanfield said. "Microsoft has the war chest, but it's also not in their DNA to give up."

In August, the Taiwan-based tech journal DigiTimes reported that Microsoft plans to continue offering Windows Mobile 6.5 for some time after Windows Mobile 7's launch. Microsoft would cut the price of Windows Mobile 6.5 and use it to compete with Google Android-powered devices, while positioning Windows Mobile 7 as a contender to the iPhone, according to Digitimes.

In some ways, the slow pace of Windows Mobile development has become Microsoft's new Windows Vista. But if the software giant can devise a way to get Windows Mobile 7 devices on the market as soon as possible, it could regain its status in a mobile industry game that's still in its early stages.