Last week it was the launch of Apple iPad and now the internet is all abuzz with the news about the Windows Mobile 7 that is going to be presented at MWC. Gizmodo is reporting that the “Zune Phone”… but hey wait, there is no Zune Phone.
Everyone is pretty safe saying that Windows Mobile 7 will debut at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona in about two weeks. This isn’t inside knowledge; Microsoft executives have been dropping broad hints in public conference calls. But using Zune as a component service in their new OS doesn’t make Windows Mobile 7 a “Zune phone” any more than it is anticipated to be an “XBox phone” or a “Windows Live phone” or, for that matter, an “Exchange phone.” (And no, there’s no inside knowledge there either, except for common sense.)
Here’s what Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said in 2007:
“It’s not a concept you’ll ever get from us. We’re in the Windows Mobile business. We can put Zune into Windows Mobile, we can put Xbox into Windows Mobile. We can pour everything in.“
And here’s what Microsoft’s John Starkweather said in 2009:
“Microsoft is not building a Zune-specific phone.“
It’s pretty hard to define a Zune Phone anyway. If it can play music, does that make it a Zune Phone? If the interface has some similarities with Zune, is it then a Zune Phone? I think what we’ll see at MWC is the debut presentation of Windows Mobile 7. We’ll also see the release of the Turtle and Pure phones, which are not Windows Mobile at all, but the Danger Sidekick Mark II.
What I’d really like to know, is what will happen to Windows Mobile 6.x. It appears Microsoft wants to follow a dual-OS strategy, and keep 6.x on the market (at the same time as WM7). But how can they? Windows Mobile 6.5 is hemorrhaging market share rapidly. The release of WM7 is not going to save Windows Mobile 6.5, in fact, it will hasten its demise.
There appears to be only 2 WinMo7 handsets that have been announced so far… one from LG, the other from HTC. That doesn’t seem very many, unless others are in the pipeline. Apple has shown that it is possible to get by with only 2 handsets on the market, but not without developer support. Maybe the most important factor in WinMo7′s survival will be whether developers come to the platform, or not (they’ve already abandoned WM6.5).
It makes a tremendous amount of sense for Microsoft to wrap up all of their various software and service platforms under a mobile umbrella, making Zune part of Windows Mobile 7, along with XBox, Windows Live, Office, Exchange and for that matter Sharepoint and their enterprise management software. That may make Windows Mobile 7 impressive, and it may make it a player again. But it wouldn’t make it a “Zune phone”. What do you think?
The image is a mockup, not the real thing!