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Microsoft Pri0

Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times technology reporter Matt Day.

December 15, 2008 at 9:51 AM

Windows Mobile: Prescriptions for what ails it and predictions from many quarters

With Windows Mobile now the fourth-place competitor for mobile operating systems — a slide from second place about a year ago — more people are asking what’s going on. Here are a series of stories dissecting the business, which some are expecting to make a significant splash at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next month.

The BBC asks in this article whether Microsoft can “make its future mobile.” The story, which positions the company’s mobile efforts as a “niche player,” explains how phone makers are improving on the “abysmal user interface” of Windows Mobile, by putting their own UIs on top of the operating system. Samsung’s Omnia and the HTC Touch Diamond are two examples.

Last week, BusinessWeek offered a prescription. The story starts with CEO Steve Ballmer’s series of meetings with 17 handset makers in September, his “longest trip ever aimed at drumming up support for Windows Mobile.. That trip comes against this unpleasant statistic for Windows Mobile: Researcher Canalys reports that in the third quarter, Apple shipped more iPhones than all Windows Mobile phones — from 56 manufacturers — combined. Analysts see Microsoft’s share of the market continuing to slide. Here are three prescriptions from the article:

— “Adapt Windows Mobile software for use with touch interface.”

— Shift more computing work — generating maps and processing payments, for example — off of the device and on to connected servers.

— Build a mobile applications marketplace, like the iPhone App Store from Apple.

Paul Thurrott, having just met with Windows Mobile last week, critiqued the BusinessWeek article, which he called “interesting if misguided.” Microsoft is expected to roll out the next version of Windows Mobile in 2010. Thurrott says several upgrades are on their way before then, including Internet Explorer 6 for Windows Mobile and a platform called “Zune Mobile” that includes functionality from Microsoft’s music player service. Thurrott says, “Microsoft needs to take control of its future in the smartphone market and it can’t do that unless it makes its own devices or its partner make serious, Apple-like concessions. Guess which one is more likely?”

But no Zune Phone is coming at CES in January, according to a report last week on Gizmodo. That flushed a wave of reports from earlier in the week. Instead, the speculation is more in line with what Thurrott hinted at: a consumer mobile platform, which Mary Jo Foley has tracked closely, going under the code name Pink. She wrote that Pink is “the codename for a set of services under development (of which a Zune music service is expected to be one).”

Over the weekend, it emerged that Microsoft has released its first application for the iPhone, a photo-viewing app based on the same technology behind Microsoft’s innovative Photosynth application. It’s called Seadragon Mobile. More details from Microsoft’s Live Labs. Here’s a video demo of the free app:

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First Look: Seadragon Mobile

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