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Windows Mobile use has plunged in the last year, while Apple's OS X-driven iPhone and RIM's Blackberries have both posted impressive growth.
Microsoft's sales have plunged while competitors Apple and RIM have flourished

Smartphones only recently have risen to sales prominence over more crude cell phone models.  The shift has come largely thanks to more powerful and energy efficient mobile processors, putting unprecedented media, internet, and communications devices in the hands of users.  A year ago, Microsoft looked comfortable in that market, coming off another year of growth and holding a promising 11 percent global marketshare, almost tied with Apple's 12.9 percent and just behind Research in Motion's 16 percent.

The picture became increasingly dismal for Microsoft over the course of 2009, though.  According to market research firm Gartner, Windows Mobile's marketshare now stands at 7.9 percent.  Apparently its competitors ate its lunch as Apple's (OS X) share rose to 17.1 percent and RIM also grew significantly, now at 20.8 percent.

That's disappointing considering that Microsoft was one of the first players to enter the market with its Windows CE, released in 1996, which went on to form the foundation Windows Mobile.  One of the main problems has been the iPhone, which launched in the summer of 2007 and has since seen two compelling hardware updates, the first bumping it up to 3G and the second delivering a faster processor.  States Ross Rubin, an NPD Group consumer technology analyst, "It was really the iPhone that came out full-bore for a consumer perspective.  We saw app development focus on consumer applications like social networking and games.... Particularly with Apple's retail presence and advantages in that market, through design and so forth, that's where Microsoft's main challenge lies."

Raven Zachary, a technology analyst and owner of iPhone app development house Small Society comments on Microsoft's missed opportunity in the smartphone market, "It was theirs to lose and they lost it. They had everything they needed to execute, to do the right kinds of carrier deals to create an app store, create visual voice mail, touchscreens and so on. They've been in this space since the beginning."

One problem has been the segmented hardware.  RIM doesn't overly rely on media to sell; rather it sells itself with a strong suite of proprietary business tools.  Apple, meanwhile has a single basic hardware design (with some variations between its three generations) allowing an App to easily work on any of its phones.  Windows Mobile phones, however, include handsets from HTC, LG, Samsung, and others -- in other words developers have to deal with the headache of creating multiple versions of a single app to reach the entire audience.  At least Microsoft is not alone in this plight -- segmentation has also become an emerging problem for Google's Android OS.

Another problem has been the slow pace of updates.  With the launch of Windows 7, many heard that Windows Mobile 7 was soon forthcoming.  However, Microsoft instead released Windows Mobile 6.5, a stopgap solution. Windows Mobile 7, codenamed "Photon", has been bumped back to 2010.  That delay has caused many buyers to simply not upgrade -- or more likely, pick a Blackberry or iPhone instead.

Microsoft isn't out of the game just yet.  Just as Apple looked to be on its way out of the PC market, but managed a turnaround, Microsoft still can hope to right the ship and dig out a nice niche of marketshare for itself.  Forthcoming proprietary phones may play an important role in that.  However, the trouble signs remain for Microsoft and if doesn't take strong action, it risks losing OS war for good -- in the smartphone market.



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By StevoLincolnite on 11/19/2009 2:47:05 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
in other words developers have to deal with the headache of creating multiple versions of a single app to reach the entire audience. At least Microsoft is not alone in this plight -- segmentation has also become an emerging problem for Google's Android OS.


That was an issue game developers had on the PC once upon a time, where programmers would actually have to program for the hardware directly, like the sound card or the graphics card to even make any decent use out of the acceleration/featues of technology's at that time, that was in the DOS era however.

Enter Windows 95 with it's API's and Driver functionality which made life much easier for developers, and different hardware configuration issues a thing of the past.

Perhaps Microsoft should look to the past to solve this current and future dilemma?




RE: .
By GreenEnvt on 11/19/2009 3:17:02 PM , Rating: 1
I don't think it's that common that developers need to make versions specific to a phone. One thing they often do is have a smartphone version, and a pocketpc version (no touch screen vs touch screen).
I was a reasonably happy WinMo user, then I got an android based Magic, and now I can't stand when I have to fix a staff members WinMo phone, so clunky.


RE: .
By ExarKun333 on 11/19/2009 3:44:08 PM , Rating: 5
If all you eat is gruel, and you get a bite of a juicy hamburger, you don't want to go back.

Windows Mobile is terrible. I have a WinMo phone for work; web browsing is TERRIBLE, the interface is cluncky, and the only decent thing on it is email.

Both the Android and the iPhone have great mobile OSs and the interface is fast and intuitive.


RE: .
By bhieb on 11/20/2009 9:36:25 AM , Rating: 2
Agreed. I've had Palm's, WiMo, Blackberries, and the iPhone and the WiMo's are the most problematic. I have seen some from HTC that have used other browsers, and tricks to cover up WiMO's issues, but in the end they are lackluster at best.

I hope they get WiMO 7 out soon as it should help. Biggest mistake MS made was licensing ActiveSync to Apple. Don't get me wrong I'm glad they did from an IT perspective, but had they not I would have far less iPhones to support and way more WiMO's (we don't use Crapberries much since I refuse to pay for a server feature that Exchange already does).


RE: .
By omnicronx on 11/20/2009 4:14:13 PM , Rating: 3
Correction: stock winMo sucks..

There is a reason why all the geeks use WinMO, its far more customizable than any other mobile OS by far..

I also assume that you are using IE to browse, Opera is amazing compared to IE. Latest 9.7 builds are faster than Safari even on slower hardware, and support limited flash too :) I can to many more sites than those with Apple or Android phones.


RE: .
By Hare on 11/20/2009 4:17:15 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
There is a reason why all the geeks use WinMO, its far more customizable than any other mobile OS by far..


You might want to try Symbian...

And don't forget Maemo when comparing mobile OS's of the future.


RE: .
By sprockkets on 11/19/2009 9:50:06 PM , Rating: 2
API's solved one problem, but imagine some PCs didn't have a keyboard, some didn't use mice, and some had square screens and some were widescreen, and of course, some had video cards that could actually run games.

Look at WinMob phones: Some are square, some have touch screens, some have hi res screens, very few had some have some form of GPU, some have a keyboard, some have faster processors, etc.

It's so bad that WinMob 6.5 can't even run on any phone save for the ones that just came out. It's the only native version of it that is finger friendly.


RE: .
By omnicronx on 11/20/2009 5:24:15 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
ook at WinMob phones: Some are square, some have touch screens, some have hi res screens, very few had some have some form of GPU, some have a keyboard, some have faster processors, etc.
Almost all have GPU's integrated with the processor, just like pretty much any other smartphone. Some are definately better than others though. That being said, the same situation exists even with the iPhone, games in particular have to be coded to lower poly counts because because the 2g/3g/3gs have different GPU's/Different clockspeeds.

As for screen sizes, yep it can be a *****, but people are kidding themselves if they think that Apple will stay at 480x320 resolution forever, same with Palm (whatever resolution they use now). In the next few iterations, they will have exactly the same problem when they up the phone resolution. This will pose a problem for Apple and their appstore at some point. Just imagine 90 thousand apps designed for WQVGA will have to be either changed to work with different screen resolutions or scaled(assuming this can even be done).

Now if they were smart they could easily stay with the same aspect ratio which would make things easier, but mark my words, this will create huge issues going forward.


RE: .
By adiposity on 11/23/2009 2:05:22 PM , Rating: 2
6.5 is not finger friendly. I had it on my touch pro and it's MUCH better than 6.0, but still has major problems. For example, changing the ringtones and other areas still requires a stylus or the use of a fingernail to be accurate. I thought with the hardware of the touchpro it would finally be enough to overcome the latency of WinMo devices, but it wasn't. I still really like my touchpro but the lag is unbearable sometimes.

Now that I have a Droid, I can't believe the speed of everything. It's sad, really, a brand new OS that feels so much more "mature." WinMo is obviously more powerful but I fear the backwards compatibility just is too much of a burden for phone hardware.

I do miss Microsoft Voice Command, though, the bluetooth voice functionality on Droid is crap...

-Dan


RE: .
By Donovan on 11/20/2009 8:49:16 AM , Rating: 3
I don't think segmentation is a big problem really. A significant part of my work is developing Windows Mobile navigation software and we have a single executable that runs on all phones running WM 2003 or later, with or without a touchscreen. There are some minor issues with how certain GUI controls are handled but they aren't that difficult to deal with. The more serious issues I've encountered are:

1) Networking sucks. They've been using an outdated version of WinInet for years which doesn't allow you to set a sane timeout on the connection, and their Connection Manager is a piece of crap. It is very easy to get into a situation where you absolutely can't get a working connection unless you restart your program (even IE can get stuck like this).

2) While Windows Mobile uses most of the same APIs as desktop, there are a lot of functions that are not implemented. These holes are frustrating when the function you really need is among the missing.

3) Real graphics support has been slow in coming to Windows Mobile. Direct3D is supported in theory, but it is only just beginning to be worth the effort. If Microsoft had pushed for better graphics capabilities sooner there would be more eye candy to compete with iPhone.

4) Microsoft needs to create a new set of controls and window classes for Windows Mobile. As it stands currently, if you want to have a pretty UI like iPhone you have to either license a third-party library or roll your own. Otherwise you are stuck with boring desktop-style controls that are not designed to be tapped with a big, fat finger.

5) The app store came way later than it should have. In the meantime the supposed "unique" IDs developers can use to identify the hardware for registration purposes (Windows Mobile 5 ID, HAL ID, MAC ID, radio serial number, etc.) all manage to have one problem or another that prevent them from being truly unique.

6) Microsoft has been so intent on pushing .NET and C-sharp that they have intentionally created a lot of nifty managed APIs that have no counterpart in native C++. That may not matter much for Windows desktop, but there's a lot more value in using native C++ on Windows Mobile where CPUs are puny and GPUs are non-existent. A Microsoft blog on doing game graphics claimed .NET was around 10% slower than unmanaged code in their tests. It's foolish to penalize developers for wanting maximum performance.

While I have run into some device-specific issues, the real frustrations usually come directly from Microsoft. They really need to step up and stop assuming their position in the market is automatically secure.


RE: .
By TheRequiem on 11/20/2009 11:29:15 AM , Rating: 2
While you may be correct, I think they will actually target those exact functions in windows mobile 7 in a way, however, I think your off with the whole problem with cell phones. PC's are an entirely different platform, cell phones dont have dedicated sound cards and 3d cards... however, 3D chips are a growing segment in cell phones. As a Sprint Technical Support Staff, we directly deal with OS's on the phone and I can tell you right now the Blackberry OS is the most problematic due to it's propietary enterprise software for businesses, however, WiMo does NOT seem to have these problems.

I think the main point here is, you have too many OS's with propietary solutions in a seperated market so even if Microsoft did make some sort of API for developers, the other OS manufacturers simply wouldn't support them. I think Apple was great, a year ago... but the problem is, Apple is going to lose heavy ground to Google AND Microsoft in the next couple of years and I say this because of their restrictive licensing practices. Google is going to catch on very fast and I don't think people realize this, and it's because they let developers freely develop programs to their will and when Microsoft finally get's around to WiMo 7, they are also going to launch an unrestrictive app store. The GUI is suppose to be something else on this new mobile platform and Microsoft will always be a major player. In the next few years, your going to see Apple grow, Google Explode and Microsoft change minds.


RE: .
By omnicronx on 11/20/2009 4:05:59 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Enter Windows 95 with it's API's and Driver functionality which made life much easier for developers, and different hardware configuration issues a thing of the past.
Jason's claim is completely rediculous. Both android and WinMo have standard API's, but it is up to the OEM to interface with them (which is not a new concept, this is exactly how PC's work, the manufacturer supplies a driver that interfaces with Windows API's). If a developer wants to make use of the camera or gps, its not like he has to program for each possible piece of hardware that a phone could have. He just makes a call to the API he wants.

Now don't get me wrong, having the pretty much the same hardware is definitely an advantage. For example all iphones have GPS, all iphones have a camera, so when designing an app you don't have to worry about the hardware being there.

That being said, this exists even in the iPhone world too. For example the feature that allows for a compass in the 3gs cannot be accessed if you were to put that program on a 3g or 2g phone because the hardware does not exist.

So both MS and Google both do exactly what you are saying.


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