Windows Mobile 6.5

Is the new Windows Mobile good enough to compete with Iphone, Android and other smartphones? But surprisingly enough, Microsoft admit that they are not there to compete with Apple at the moment.

Below is the interview from TechRadar.

TR: How does Windows Mobile fit into the current market?

AR: It's aimed at people who want smart device for work, then when they're on their way home, they want a great smart device too.

This means Exchange email, company database access, IM through company system, then at home you want Facebook, Windows Live Mail, Gmail instead. It's not about the phone, it's about who wants to use it, most people who I know who are interested in a Windows Phone want it for both work and home.

It's easy to make assumptions about people, and then we don't deliver for actual, real users. They want these services, being able to sync to the cloud if they lose their phone, can then get their stuff back, share photos without a degree in IT, have the same browser favourites on PC and phone. It's not rocket science what we're trying to do.

DW: If look at today's marketplace, Microsoft is traditionally positioned with RIM with BlackBerry in terms of enterprise devices. If you look on the extreme other side, we've got Apple and Android coming in, and Nokia too. Everyone is now trying to move towards the middle, so when you walk into work you only have one device [that is good enough for both work and home].

That way you can get email, have a good UI experience, and still install some good applications that you discuss with mates in pub. We no longer see it as a consumer or business device, we're terming it as "life maximiser", where people maximise their life in work and maximise their life at home.

We see Windows Mobile 6.5 as a long term strategy, with future releases coming up, so we're not competing against Apple at the moment, because they've got a vertical strategy where they've got one phone, they can write software to exploit all that hardware on that device and they can do some really whizzy stuff which we can't do.

Why aren't you competing with Apple?

DW: We currently work with 55 OEMs who have 155 devices running Windows Mobile, with each different hardware component written by a hardware manufacturer. To write the software to exploit all those manufacturer IDs, well, you couldn't write it, as you'd just end up with a PC.

Our competitor in the market is RIM and Nokia, even though doing some stuff with them [the recent deal to install Microsoft Office on future Nokia handsets].

At the moment, Nokia is losing market share left, right and centre; it's gone from 63% to 46% [worldwide] in just over 18 months. Competitors are stealing a march, and we need to do that with 6.5 too.

Would you agree Windows Mobile 6.1 came in for a lot of criticism?

AR: 6.1 was a successful product for us, sold a lot of phones as a 'rational' purchase [ie users who needed the Windows Mobile features] and to business. Now we need to earn consumer trust and affection, we have their trust through our brand but they probably don't love what we do [in the mobile space].

But the user experience is now very nice, and we're stating 'We know we've got to earn everyone's trust in this market, and we've really got to set out to do that and build awareness, desire and trust for device.'

The fact consumers only have a 10 per cent awareness of Windows Mobile is very low, and that's probably because we've aimed primarily at the business user. The reality is if we're going to drive market share and gain a stronger position with consumer, we need a more emotional connection to the mobile brand.

Windows mobile 6.5

Is Windows Mobile 6.5 not just a touch-friendly upgrade from 6.1?

DW: While the UI is important to consumers, Windows Mobile 6.5 is more than just that. There's been fundamental engineering going on around the OS, it's got better battery life, better handling of services, we've improved the number of apps it can run, so it's more than that.

Is it revolutionary? No, it's an evolutionary part of the journey, but we've got to start somewhere. Yes, the UI is more touch-friendly for people to use, and we're exploiting the capabilities of 6.1, it's just we haven't exposed those in the way people want as yet.

How do you react to the early criticism of Windows Mobile 6.5, with some stating it's still not good enough for users?

AR: I would implore anyone to use it for a while before passing judgement, as I don't understand the criticism. It's just a nice product to use, it doesn't claim to be anything it isn't, if you only have negative feelings about it I would say use it – use MyPhone, use Marketplace and use the new UI and then come back and tell me it's not good, because it is.

For instance, my wife is a user of the product and she doesn't work for Microsoft or anything. It's easy to use right out the box, does what it says on the tin.

Are the skins being put on top of the OS, for instance Samsung's TouchWiz and HTC's TouchFlo 3d, annoying?

DW: Yes, it is frustrating, but all these manufacturers are looking for differentiators in the market. However, we hope that customers will go to the phone's settings [to see the original Windows Mobile 6.5 UI], we're going to push the marketing on that, to educate them about the fact that option is there. The they can decide whether they like TouchWiz, or TouchFlo, and choose for themselves.

Windows mobile 6.5

How will Bing be integrated into Windows Mobile 6.5 phones?

DW: Bing mobile will offer local search and location services, so if you were in London and wanted a pizza, you could search and get directions from the phone. It's all about finding locations.

It will be a Windows Mobile marketplace download, we actually finished the OS before they made Bing, so it will be made available for OEMs to install on their phones too.

However there are core things that have to be installed on every Windows Mobile 6.5 handset, such as Marketplace and MyPhone, and these will also be available as a download to Windows Mobile 6 and 6.1 devices.

What do you make of the likes of Samsung, which supports five operating systems in its handset range?

DW: It's good for the consumer, as they get choice. But we're now at this inflexion point, which you see in multiple industries, where there will be multiple players jostling for position.

And we're very good at competing in area, so while there will always be a place for alternative systems, like Linux and Apple jostling with us, the number will be down to two or three major players in there market over the next three or so years.

There's no world a mobile operator can sustain and test all mobile operating systems, and there's no way a hardware manufacturer can exploit or continually keep testing five or six operating systems.

At the moment everyone is investing in that marketplace, creating an opportunity where a good open platform is available for people to develop on top of.

Android has done well, and now the Chrome OS has been announced, there will be plenty of connection. How do you react to that?

DW: Well, Google is our number one competitor, in terms of the PC space, but not mobile. However, we are keeping a close eye on developments [with Chrome OS], although our number one competitor is RIM.

Windows mobile 6.5

Will we see any 6.x updates to Windows Mobile before the release of WM 7?

DW: There will be service packs for Windows Mobile that we'll be releasing. There will be things like new hardware with capacitive screens coming down from some companies, and we can exploit that by tweaking the OS to allow Windows Mobile to have capacitive touch.

But essentially for the end user, 6.5 is the release, and there will be some minor maintenance updates for OEMs. Is there a major release or another update will be made known to consumers? No, it will only be tweaks.

Apple do very good job [in hyping up incremental firmware updates], they release a new version of the firmware and it's got cut and paste in it, which we had for years, and the media love it.

But our next major release will be Windows Mobile 7.

AR: The production line of software is never ending. In the the olden days you developed software, you launched it, then moved on to the next one. Now you can't do that, it's a constant production line of innovation, not just waiting for next big thing.

Doubtless one day we'll get to the point where we can attach another integer to the product, and we can say we're at the next version, but really have to stop thinking about the OS in that way.

It is hard because we know we've propagated this way of thinking, but the truth is the whole market will be about constant innovation, and if you don't, you will be left behind.

Does the media coverage of the Apple iPhone firmware updates annoy you?

DW: Yeah, and they do a great job at it. We need to learn from it, to be truthful about it, we should be doing the same. But I don't think we've been in a position to do it, for instance with 6.1, we were never in a position to do updates or make important announcements.

How will you differentiate Windows Phone when there's WM 6.5 and 7 on offer?

DW: Consumers are moving away from versions – they don't want speeds and features, they want to know what it can do for them. So each phone will be sold as having these capabilities, whatever feature set, so it's positioned in the market as what it can do, not what version it will be, because that means nothing to consumers.

All the research we've done shows that, yet still see it with PCs; we still see them advertised with Pentium processor, or Core 2 duo processor. But it should be whether the device is great for photography, browsing, gaming, which is what we're trying to change in the market.

But surely, like with Vista and Windows 7, they'll want to know what version is under the hood?

DW: Will be branded as a 'Windows phone', and then the retailer can say it's 'powered by 6.5 or 7' etc. The primary brand is Windows phone, and retailers can use the operating systems for differentiation. It is a difficult one though.

As much as people might criticize the development of Windows Mobile 6.5...after all, it took them quite a long period for this upgrade but while many felt that it is only a cosmetic upgrade, Windows 6.5 definitely set the direction for Microsoft in the phone industry.

And yes, much has been said about Windows Mobile 7 and although many felt it will be a little too late for Microsoft...but let us not say so much until it really happens...