Perhaps if They Think of Their Win Mobile Devices as Broken iPhones…
What an uncomfortable moment for Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer at the CIO Summit Wednesday. Fielding questions at Microsoft’s annual event for government and education sector IT workers, Ballmer was asked how best to handle workers who prefer consumer handsets like the iPhone to Windows Mobile devices, which are more apt to meet the security requirements of large organizations. “With platforms like the Google phone and iPhone coming out, it’s really tough to continue to stand behind Windows Mobile when our employees are bringing these consumer devices into our environments,” the questioner explained. “And in your presentation you put Windows Mobile right in the center there, but it was a phone that doesn’t work in America and an operating system that you haven’t released. I’m wondering what your commitment is to continuing to get newer versions of the operating system in our hands so that we don’t have to fight this battle on the ground.”
A difficult question. It’s clear that Microsoft (MSFT) has so far failed to improve Windows Mobile to better compete with the iPhone, and with handsets using Google’s (GOOG) Android, which are slowly beginning to arrive at market. When will it close the gap?
Ballmer’s answer? We’re getting around to it.
“We have a significant release coming this year,” he said. “Not the full release we wanted to have this year but we have a significant release coming this year with Windows Mobile 6.5….We still don’t get some of the things that people want on the highest-end phones. Those will come on Windows Mobile 7 next year. Certainly I’m not, um–there’s opportunities for us to accelerate our execution in this area, and we’ve done a lot of work to really make sure we have a team that’s going to be able to accelerate. With that said, we did sell more Windows Mobile devices last year than Apple did iPhones–just an important factoid to have. Blackberry was a little bit ahead, and Google was nowhere to be seen, except in Silicon Valley, I’m sure. But we’ll do our best to help you with that challenge.”
We’re doing our best? Not the answer the questioner was looking for, I’m sure. And noting that there were more Windows Mobile devices sold last year than Apple (AAPL) iPhones doesn’t make the disparity between the two any less vast. Finally, it’s all well and good that Microsoft is accelerating Windows Mobile development to better meet its competition. But that competition isn’t exactly standing still waiting for Microsoft to bring itself to parity. It lapped Microsoft two years ago, and if the software behemoth continues at its present pace, the competition will lap it again. Perhaps it already has.