Microsoft Plots Its Mobile Industry Resurgence

On Tuesday at Microsoft's Professional Developer Conference, Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie said attendees of the Mix 2010 conference next March will hear about developing applications for "the next generation of Windows phones." This will include a "single, coherent device strategy" that spans all platforms, Ozzie told PDC attendees.

Windows Mobile 6.5 phones arrived in early October to tepid reviews, but Microsoft has characterized that release as a stopgap on the way to Windows Mobile 7. Repeated Windows Mobile 7 delays have created major problems for Microsoft, but recent scuttlebutt suggests that Microsoft could get the OS in the hands of smartphone makers this spring for testing in order to speed its release.

Although Mix is a conference for Web developers, Microsoft may be shooting to release a beta of Windows Mobile 7 at the event. This wouldn't be surprising given how little separation Microsoft sees today between the previously disparate worlds of Web and mobile, as evidenced by its mantra-like messaging around "three screens and the cloud."

"Three screens and the cloud" refers to Microsoft's strategy of developing software for PCs, televisions, and mobile devices, and having all three platforms augmented by cloud services. At PDC, executives invoked the strategy on numerous occasions, even though the mobile screen is clearly experiencing serious technical difficulties. Still, the fact that Microsoft mentions the mobile screen so often underscores its confidence that Windows Mobile 7 will indeed right the ship.

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Microsoft's mobile ambitions are also apparent in this week's beta launch of Office 2010 For Mobile for Windows Mobile 6.5 devices. In addition to mobile versions of Word, Excel, and Powerpoint, Office 2010 For Mobile includes SharePoint Workspace Mobile, which lets users edit and save Sharepoint documents on a backend Sharepoint server.

Microsoft has fessed up to its missteps in mobile, but it's apparently ignoring the advice of industry pundits who say it's too late for the software giant to make up for lost time. Ray Ozzie's foreshadowing, combined with a product direction that's taking big time Microsoft cash cows into the mobile future, show that Microsoft still believes it can make a comeback.