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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 Josh7289 on 11/19/2009 7:46:31 PM , Rating: 2
"The downside of Windows Mobile is that Microsoft
has no control over which components of its OS are
supported by device manufactures (OEMs). Microsoft
distributes a tool to OEMs called the “Adaptation
Kit for Windows Mobile” that contains approximately
90% of the source code of the Operating System and
drivers [16]. OEMs use the kit to customize the OS for
their hardware. OEMs are also responsible for implementing
their own network stacks and selecting the set
of APIs that third party applications may call to access
the network. This has translated into a cornucopia of
devices each with a unique set of missing features and
general instability."


I would imagine that's a pretty big problem with the platform, too, though it was kind of referenced in the DailyTech article.

RE: Problems
By 3minence on 11/20/2009 9:15:32 AM , Rating: 2
If you ever read 'The Software Conspiracy' by Mark Minasi you will see where in an interview Bill Gates said people care nothing about reliability, they want features (kind of explains windows, doesn't it?). He may or may not be right on the PC, but I think he is dead wrong on the phone. People expect their cell phones to be like their home phones, which are incredibly reliable. They last years and years without fault, and the service is virtually bulletproof. Cell phones? Not so much.

Apple and RIM make both the hardware and OS so they are tightly integrated. MS makes a general OS and it's up to the vendor to tighten it up and make it work with their hardware, a task that takes time and money. It appears they have been doing a less than stellar job at it.

Palm tried to separate the OS from the hardware and it failed miserably. They have since seen the light and are trying to fix their mistake. I hope they succeed.

Microsoft needs to 1. come out with a more current OS that equals the competition, and 2. force the hardware makers to do a better job integrating the OS and hardware. Otherwise it makes MS look bad and causes them to lose marketshare.

MS, learn from your mistakes and others success. Reliability does count as much as new features and a flashy look.

"When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." -- Sony BMG attorney Jennifer Pariser

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