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February 23, 2009

Microsoft catching up with rivals at 2009 Mobile World Congress

Microsoft has used the 2009 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona to launch its new mobile operating system and a range of online services including My Phone and Windows Marketplace for Mobile. Microsoft is aiming to appeal to the mass market of tech-savvy consumers who expect their mobile devices to be more than just a phone, and has hinted that these new launches are just the beginning.

By CBR Staff Writer

Although those hoping for a surprise appearance of Windows Mobile 7.0 at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona will have been disappointed, Microsoft did reveal several interesting developments that are worth highlighting.

Firstly, there is a slick new version of the Windows Mobile operating system, which will be released in the second half of 2009. Windows Mobile 6.5 has a much simpler user interface and internet browsing is greatly improved as it is Flash and Javascript enabled. There is also a new feature on the internet browser that shows users where they are on a page when they zoom in. Overall, Windows Mobile 6.5 is a large improvement over Windows Mobile 6.1, due to its much simpler and intuitive interface.

Secondly, there is the much heralded launch of Windows Marketplace, the one-stop shopping outlet for Microsoft’s applications. Microsoft claims that there are over 20,000 applications that run on the Windows Mobile operating system, although it is unlikely that all of these will be available on Windows Marketplace when its launches later in the year.

The announcement of Windows Marketplace is an important step for Microsoft, as the company needs to improve uptake of its mobile applications. The overall success of Windows Marketplace will depend on how easy it is to download applications, and how simple it is to browse through categories.

Finally, the My Phone service gives consumers personal information management capabilities. It also allows users to upload pictures and videos with just a couple of clicks.

The fundamental driver behind Microsoft’s product launches was to create a mobile operating system and services offering which really unleashed the potential of smartphones for the mass market. This collective release also allows it to compete with the market leaders and demonstrates Microsoft’s commitment to the consumer mobile market.

Microsoft has performed well in the enterprise mobility market, but translating this success into the consumer mobile market will be challenging. In the consumer market, Microsoft is at a slight disadvantage to Nokia, Palm, RIM and Apple, because it does not control the entire production cycle, from the mobile device to the operating system.

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Although this flexibility allows Microsoft to target a larger market by embedding its mobile operating system on a wider variety of phones, it is important to note that the company is not alone in targeting the mass market with a mobile operating system, and will face significant competition from Symbian, Android and other open source operating systems.

Despite the consumer mobile market not being an extremely lucrative revenue stream for Microsoft, it is an important avenue through which the company can highlight its innovative capabilities. The announcements at the Mobile World Congress are a very positive step for Microsoft, but Windows Mobile 6.5 is only halfway there, and Microsoft’s future success in this market will depend upon the popularity of its services offering and Windows Mobile 7.0.


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