During CES, Senior Product Manager for Windows Mobile – Greg Sullivan, came out to CntrStg to talk to us in more detail about what Steve Ballmer showed off during his keynote a couple days earlier. Greg walked us through the new Netflix application that allows you to control and rank your downloads as well as start a movie download so that it will be ready for watching when you get home from work. NetFlix and Microsoft have worked hard on this and it looks very nice! If only NetFlix had a Canadian presence.
Greg also talked about the long awaited IE Mobile 6. This was announced last year at Mobile World Congress and was promised as something that would be widely available “soon”. Ultimately, the problem came down to performance and the default setup of devices didn’t allow for optimal performance of the application. So instead of releasing it early and having a mediocre response, they decided to bundle it with new devices that would be better optimized to handle it. You can expect devices to begin to ship with IE Mobile 6 in Q1 of this year. That pretty much means any day now.
I don’t think it comes as a surprise to anyone; Microsoft has been focusing Windows Mobile on the enterprise market in the past. To bring the phones to a wider consumer adoption, Microsoft understands that changes are needed and they are working on those changes – whatever they may be. According to Greg, a platform update that is set to ship later this year will dramatically change the user experience and help to extend Windows Mobile into the consumer market. Try as we did, Greg wouldn’t expand on this comment. I guess all we can do is wait and see. Hopefully we’ll get an announcement or some sneak peak at the upcoming MWC.
One thing Microsoft wanted to make very clear was their intentions around creating a Zune phone or zPhone as some have referred to it as. It seems that almost every website and blog on the internet are predicting that Microsoft is working on a Zune phone to compete with Apple and their iPhone. Greg’s statement was pretty clear on this; He said that Microsoft has no plans, near or far term, to build a zone phone. I think there’s lots of room for debate on if this is the right course of action or not. Regardless, we’re not going to be seeing a Zune phone anytime soon.
Some claim that the lack of an iconic device is the biggest thing holding Windows Mobile back from mass consumer adoption. Apple has shown that by controlling the device and the OS, they can better market the product to consumers and create that iconic device. Microsoft is happy with making the operating system and letting their partners build the hardware. This approach hasn’t yielded a single iconic device, but to-date it has driven 11 different phones to pass the 1 million units sold mark, which is no small feat. Last year alone(2008), Windows Mobile saw 20 million units sold, about 4 times that of Apple. It will be interested to see what Microsoft can do with a more consumer focused OS.