The launch of Windows Mobile 7, Microsoft’s completely new mobile operating system has been and gone. Much of the media’s attention has been directed towards whether the system will provide a viable alternative platform to iPhone or Android. What the press should really be asking is why the technical gurus in Redmond are actually bothering with the launch at all.
The world is going mobile and Microsoft, as the king of the desktop operating system, cannot afford to move to prince and possibly pauper in the mobile era. But the chances are that, despite more development money being lavished on another mobile platform, they might not have a choice.
For a start, the market already looks sewn up. Symbian remains the market leader but its market share continues to fall in relation to Android and Apple, the two software systems driving smarter mobile development and growth at the hardware level.
Analyst Gartner recently reported that Android and Apple were the winners in the smart phone operating system market during the first quarter of 2010. Both were the only two platforms to increase market share year-on-year.
For Windows Mobile, the picture was far less impressive. Android moved to the number four position, displacing Windows Mobile for the first time. But Windows Mobile 7 is coming; won’t the new system provide a significant challenge to the established market leaders?
That, however, is not what the experts believe. Gartner predicts Microsoft’s mobile market share will rise to just 5.2 per cent in 2011, up from the current 4.7 per cent, and will fall back to 3.9 per cent in 2014. Such trends suggest the experts are far from convinced about the prospects of Windows Mobile 7.
Consumers are picking operating systems that help deliver a rich user experience, and the market for the delivery of that experience is likely to consolidate around a few key providers.
Microsoft’s current Windows Mobile system user interface is problematic: multitasking is difficult; moving between – and closing apps – is complicated. There has to be hope that Windows Mobile 7 will help remove many of these long-standing concerns.
However, the supplier is playing catch-up. And worryingly for Microsoft – and despite the launch of Windows Mobile 7 – Gartner’s statistics suggest the supplier’s mobile strategy does not look set to attract new users.
The desktop of the future is the mobile device but I would suggest the operating system of choice will not come from Microsoft.