MICROSOFT HAS LAUNCHED a marketing campaign promoting both Windows 7 and Windows Phone, er, Windows Mobile, we mean Windows CE 6.5. If you’re confused, don’t worry – the marketing staff we talked with had just as much of a hard time juggling those names around. (NASDAQ:MSFT)
Windows7 to the rescue!
For those who are scratching their heads, ages ago in 1996 Microsoft launched Windows CE, an OS aimed at embedded devices and the back then emerging handhelds. At some point it supported six different cpu architectures, which is quite a feat. Unfortunately it never ran particularly well on any of them. Windows CE which was later renamed to Windows Mobile has been well known for running slow and sluggish and freezing or crashing every now and then.
The mobile OS wars are on, and other than in the desktop segment Microsoft doesn’t dominate, especially not in the mobile OS market. Far from it. Windows Mobile 7 is delayed, and the 6.5 release that was launched instead, which was never originally planned, disappoints – so much so that Microsofts CEO Steve Ballmer even felt like he had to apologize for it and admit that Microsoft screwed up. So what do you do? Instead of waiting for Windows Mobile 7 to launch to have something to talk about, Microsoft continued with its originally planned combined launch of Windows 7 and Windows Mobile 7, only without Windows Mobile 7.
Even cute mascots and boothbabe’s didn’t help.
The Manufacturers demonstrating Smartphones at the event in Taipei were Acer, Garmin Asus, Gigabyte GSmart, HTC, Samsung and Toshiba. Nothing new, unfortunately, as most of the phones had already been launched a month or two ago. We had a look at all the phones on display, namely the HTC Touch 2, Touch PRO 2 and Touch Diamond 2, Acer beTouch E100 and neoTouch, Toshiba TG01, Samsung Anycall Omnia II i8000, Gigabyte Gsmart S1200 and Garmin Asus Nuvifone M20. Yes, that’s right – Asus and Gigabyte are both entering the smartphone market.
All of the phones had a pre-iPhone age feeling, as some don’t feature a touchscreen at all, and the ones that do failed to impress. Most phones had problems connecting to the Internet at all, while the ones that did mostly needed quite some time and many “OK’s” to annoying pop-up messages to connect. Warnings about how expensive browsing the net can be, that it might not be very secure etc seemed a bit odd. One of the phones froze during a basic Windows Mobile menu and feature demo, another froze while trying to open Google Maps and then had the mobile Internet Explorer crash, and yet another phone locked up completely and needed to have its battery removed to come back to life. Hmmm.
The Toshiba TG01 was, subjectively, the best of the bunch at the promo show. It is based on the infamous Qualcomm Snapdragon 1Ghz Coretex A8 Arm processor built at TSMC in 40nm, making this phone very fast and responsive. Unfortunately its touchscreen keyboard turned out to be a major drawback. The displayed keys are tiny, about 1/4 of a finger tip, and while the keyboard actually recognized the correct keys most of the time, typing with more than one finger is close to impossible. As a result typing a url took forever and really defeated the purpose of having a fast cpu and network, as most of your time is spent on the interface trying to tell the thing what you actually want.
Start your Windows! Ready, set,… crash.
It was a rainy day and there were a lot of phones in a tight space, and the phones were used for hours contiously. This might explain the unfortunate series of events, yet that’s pretty much the actual usage pattern for most of these phones. For prices around 500$, which gets you a nice midrange laptop or two netbooks, we really expected a bit more to say the least. And unless the delayed Windows Mobile 7 is a revolution and not an evolution of the original Windows CE, Microsoft will have a hard time keeping its rather small piece of the pie in the mobile OS Segment, since the mobile OS war is heating up and mobile phone manufacturers cant support three or even two mobile OS’s and will have to choose.
Right now an estimated 60% of phones and smartphones use Symbian. NOKIA recently opened it up and turned into open source in an attempt to steal some attention away from Google’s Linux based Android, a name which is on everybody’s lips in the smartphone industry these days. If Microsoft wants to compete with these two using a closed standard, it really needs to step up and offer something better, faster and more reliable than Symbian and Android. Microsoft could launch a Zune Phone to keep its mobile OS afloat, but it would be a bit late for that now and pretty futile in the long run. It seems more likely that Microsoft is betting on Intel to bring X86 to the mobile phone market so it can further cut down its Windows 7 OS and have to maintain only one OS codebase.S|A