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Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer addresses a crowd of developers in Japan.  (Source: Microsoft)
Update could be a game changer for Microsoft in war against Android, iOS

At a keynote at the 2011 Japanese Microsoft Developers Forum today, Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer had exciting news for smartphone fans.  He announced some of the first known details about the company's next major release of its Windows Phone OS, Windows Phone 7.5.

I. Everybody Loves the Mango?

Mr. Ballmer says the upcoming OS, codenamed "Mango", is part of Microsoft's vision of "transforming the future of communications."

The chief executive admits that it's been a struggle over the last couple years for the prominent OS maker, but promises great things to come.  Mr. Ballmer comments, "We came to market with Windows Phone a year later than I wish we had, shame on us.  But we're moving forward very actively.  We launched Windows Phone last November, we've done a set of upgrades, we have a release that will come to market later this year in Japan.  Not only is it a release that is much more global, but we've added over 500 new features to Windows Phone."

"We have a big launch event to talk about the next release of Windows Phone tomorrow, so that information will be forthcoming, including some of the particulars about who is going to be building Windows Phones and which carriers are going to be offering them here in Japan."

Details about what "Mango" might hold haven't been specified, yet, but it's pretty easy to guess some of the items that may be on the menu.  Microsoft has long promised opening up multi-tasking for all third-party apps, pending a future update.  And Microsoft also promised connectivity with the popular Kinect motion sensor and Mobile Internet Explorer 9, a much-improved mobile browser.

Other improvements could be hardware dependent, such as Near Field Communications (NFC) technologies for wireless billing.  Rival Google Inc. (GOOG) has been pushing NFC particularly hard with its industry-leading Android platform.

Tie-ins with recent acquisition Skype, including video-chat services could be on the agenda, as well.

II. Windows Phone 7 Sees Poor Sales

Microsoft finds itself in a slightly curious position, in terms of sales.  On the one hand, its current sales are rather abysmal.  Of the approximately 100.8 million smart phones sold in Q1 2011, only 1.6 million were Windows Phone 7 handsets, according to a report by market research firm Gartner, Inc. (IT).

Microsoft is actually selling more Windows Mobile handsets than Windows Phone 7 handsets.  In Q1 2011 it sold 2.1 million Windows Mobile handsets, thanks to its drastically reduced prices on the phones, in an attempt to clear the way for Windows Phone 7.

On the other hand, the world's largest phone maker, Finland's Nokia Oyj. (NOK), has a deal with Microsoft to phase out Symbian OS and replace it with Windows Phone 7 over the next couple years.  If Microsoft can pull off a smooth transition, that move could catapult the company to second place in global phone sales, ahead of Apple, Inc. (AAPL).

Thus the future of Windows Phone 7 -- much like its upcoming update -- remains an enigma.

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RE: Competition is good....
By snakeInTheGrass on 5/24/2011 10:55:57 AM , Rating: 2
Biggest != best. It's amazing that people really equate the 2 as though there has to be a logical tie.

Microsoft got the DOS deal with IBM, borrowed liberally from the Apple Mac tech they had access to (legally - lawsuit was ruled in their favor, right?), then used that installed DOS base to push the new UI paradigm as PCs got fast enough to handle it. At times their efforts were incredibly bad (Windows 1.0, 2.0, 3.0? Do you remember those?), 3.1 was good enough to mostly work. Hope you weren't trying to run more than 1 network protocol or anything fancy, because with the DOS underpinnings it was an unstable pile of crap, but as the PC had spread through the business world, and people wanted something that would work with their work machines, Microsoft had an inherent leg up. There were certainly better operating systems out there - OS/2, NeXTstep, Solaris, etc. etc., but with that business tie-in and cheaper PC hardware, the overall market was going to go to Microsoft.

Saying that Windows / Office are not proprietary is delusional as well. The only reason you can NOW get access to the documentation for the networking, filesystem, and document formats is because courts ordered them to open those up.

Big and proprietary does not equal a 'standard', it equals dominance. And Microsoft would have been remiss to not try to use that as leverage - it's because they are the largest and were using it to stifle the competition that they got hit with anti-trust violations. If they had been small, they could have done it with impunity. 95% OS market share will get you some extra scrutiny, you know, because it's pretty easy to use that to kill any chance of someone beating you.

But all of that doesn't mean 'best', it means biggest. There's more Ramen consumed than handmade pasta on a given day, more GM cars than Ferraris, and more Bud sucked down than Boddington's.

But you do have a point that if Apple opened their hardware and let others write all the drivers, you would have an unstable mess - which is what Windows pretty much has been through Vista. It sounds like Win 7 finally is a reasonable OS - and it certainly took them long enough, and it took a market where there was competition to get it there. FWIW, you can certainly write whatever software you want on the Mac, the platform is open for that, it's the hardware side that is more locked down - and has been the better for it. Lowest common denominator isn't the thing that pushes the industry.

And look, I have 2 360's, they're nice now that they have the cooler running chipsets. I had a PocketPC years ago that was ahead of Palm at the time. Having engaged in monopolistic practices doesn't mean everything MS has done or does today is crap either ('95 was better than MacOS back in the day, .net is a much nicer framework than JDK, IMHO), but big doesn't automatically mean everything they write is golden. Jesus, how many years behind were they on live scrolling in documents? Drag and drop of graphics? Buffered windows? Fixing their attempt to kill OpenGL? Etc.

RE: Competition is good....
By retrospooty on 5/24/2011 12:24:11 PM , Rating: 2
No, biggest does not mean best, but the topic was "successful" not which is best. You cannot say Windows or office isnt successful.And all I meant by open, is that any company can make hardware and write software for Windows. The same is true for Linux, but not Mac.

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