Friday, February 27, 2009

Windows Mobile 6.5 - Follow-Up

A couple of weeks ago I posted an article criticizing Microsoft for the lack of innovation in Windows Mobile 6.5.  Engadget has had a flurry of articles on the topic over the past month, and there is an interesting trend in the comments.  Most commenters are getting into heated fanboi arguments over which is better: iPhone, WM6.5, WebOS, etc.  To me this argument misses the point of the chief criticism towards Microsoft and the Windows Mobile 6.5 offering.  The point is not to compare WM6.5 with iPhone and others, but instead to compare WM6.5 with WM6.1 and previous versions.  Microsoft has stated that WM6.5 will probably not be available until the end of the year, and at that time will only be available on new phones.  So the question is, is WM6.5 enough of an improvement over WM6.1 to purchase a new phone?

It is clear to me the answer is no.  There simply isn't enough new here to warrant upgrading a phone to get the new OS, especially when considering the high cost of smart phones with or without contract.  Microsoft really needs to do something to breath new life into Windows Mobile if they want consumers to upgrade to a new phone to get the OS.


  1. This is not a concern. USers will upgrade for the new features of the hardware and the software added by e.g. HTC.

    Dont you think you need to confirm a problem with upgrading before you proclaim it to be an issue?

  2. Thank you for validating my point: that users will not upgrade to get Windows Mobile 6.5. Certainly users will upgrade to get the latest hardware feature out of a phone, but the version of the WM OS is not going to be a factor. Said another way, given the same phone and add-on software, how much would the average user be willing to pay in premium to get WM6.5 over WM6.1 (or WM5 for that matter). When looking at the feature list, I'm thinking that premium is going to be pretty small, if anything.

  3. Isnt that a bit like Windows on the desktop? Very few people buy Windows from bestbuy, most get whatever new version is pre-installed on the computer they want.

    Again, you are seeing a problem where is none.

  4. Once again you are validating my point: WM6.5 is not innovative. It is a point upgrade (even in name) to a 6 year old mobile operating system, and does not stand on its own merit.

  5. But is it a problem?

    If so, why?

  6. Yes, lack of innovation is definitely a problem, and I predict the consequence will be a steady decrease in sales of WindowsMobile based products.

  7. Well, so far your prediction has not come true. Despite your claim of many years of lack of innovation sales have steadily increased.

    Maybe your whole premise is wrong?

  8. WM6.5 isn't out yet, so there is no way of telling if my prediction is valid or not, but here are some past numbers that lend some backing:

    The second chart shows the year over year market share growth of each mobile operating system. While Microsoft has increased sales of their OS, they are second to last in growth, beating only the Symbian OS, which actually lost market share in a growing market. If you eliminate Symbian from the data you find that the growth of the Windows Mobile OS did not keep pace with the growth of the market.
    My prediction is that this trend will continue.

  9. Q3 data is extremely deceptive, as its Apple's launch quarter. The quarter after that (q4, Christmas etc) their shipments dropped 35% to 4.4 million. Did Apple suddenly stop innovating, or did they massively stuff their channel, and sell a lot less than they shipped?

    On the other hand, Microsoft shipped more than 5 million in Q4. Does this mean they out-innovated Apple?

    If you contend that innovation stopped with WM 6.1, you should know there are a lot more changes between 6.1 and 6.5 than 6.0 and 6.1 (obviously).

    Features like the new internet explorer are much awaited, a simpler program menu structure which takes takes away the computer-centric start menu is something many people have been asked for, the OS is much more attractive, without any of the expanses of Win 3.1 white seen before. Transparency is used a lot in the OS. It will come with an app store and online backup service, and very likely with Zune service integration. It is already supported by features like Windows Live hotmail, Messenger and other services, and these will see tighter integration.

    I don't think you know Windows Mobile and its market well enough to comment.

  10. You are entitled to your opinion (that WM6.5 is innovative enough) and I'm entitled to mine (that it isn't).

    For fun, I loaded Windows Mobile 2003 SE onto my mobile to see what features it has:

    Internet Explorer - Check
    Hotmail - Check
    MSN Messenger - Check
    Program Menu Structure (Home) - Check

    All of the meaningful features you mention in 6.5 were present in the product six years ago. That leaves only the window dressing (transparency).

    I'm a consumer, and Windows Mobile 6.5 does nothing to motivate me to either upgrade my current device or go out and buy a new device.

    You seem to be blinded to the truth by your love for the product. I like Windows Mobile, and I use it every day. I'm just disappointed in MS for not reaching the potential with the product that I feel is there. Where is the accelerometer support? Where is the multi-touch support. Why is that the demo of 6.5 isn't fully touch compatible? Those are just the catchup features. How about integrating some of the concepts seen in MS Surface into the product? How about full .NET 3.5 or 4.0 support rather than the cut down Mobile version.

    If you are hoping to change my opinion, noting unreferenced data and suggesting that I'm somehow ignorant for not liking the product isn't the way to do it.

  11. Since your point is about sales (and how lack of innovation will affect it) lets look at a actual real device (since you cant buy the OS).

    Lets look at the newly announced HTC Touch Pro 2, which will be doing battle against the other "more innovative" devices.

    Does it have a good browser - yes
    Does it have accelerometer support - yes.
    Is it fully touch compatible (whatever that means) - yes.
    Does it have new and interesting features, like unified communication, facebook and youtube social network integration and business features like their new speakerphone and conference call software - yes.

    A Touch Pro 2 is very different from an XDa II, and it is strange you do not realize this. Your comment about Surface makes it clear that you are in fact more concerned about the surface rather than the underlying features.

    In the end, I dont buy an OS, I buy a device, and a package like the Touch Pro 2 is extremely compelling.

  12. Just as I've seen in the comments on engadget and other tech sites, you are steering this discussion away from what I feel is the real issue. The issue is not to ask how does WM compare with competitors in the mobile OS space, but how does it compare with itself? Even so, you argue for my point: the innovations you touch on were not developed by MS and presented as part of the OS. TouchFlo is an HTC only innovation, and not found on other WinMo devices. So if you want to compare oranges to oranges, then compare each customized flavor of WinMo from each vendor as a separate OS product. Lumping them into a single bin is deceitful.

    Your argument seems indefensible, and I wonder what your motivation is. You argue that lack of innovation is a good thing and improves sales. You argue that consumers should be satisfied with the status quo and not expect better from vendors. Is this really your opinion? Or are you just trolling / flame-baiting / astroturfing?

  13. As a side note, this is the most activity my blog has ever seen. Very exciting! Thanks for driving traffic my way :-)

  14. I should not have to explain that touch compatible means that you can operate all features of the product using one hand with index finger or thumb. I use WinMo 6.1 on my device on a daily basis. My device is touch screen only (no HW keyboard) and I simply can't use the windows mobile interface without a stylus.

  15. I doubt you really are comparing WM with itself, because of that was a case 6.5 is quite revolutionary.

    Lets see - 6.1 did not have a real AJAX browser, 6.5 will.
    6.1 did not have an app store, 6.5 will
    6.1 did not have online back-up - 6.5 will
    6.1 did not have finger-scrolling in the OS, 6.5 will
    6.5 has a new today screen, now lock screen, new program screen, no settings screen control panel, likely new media player, large finger-friendly menus.

    In fact, the list of consumer-facing changes are quite huge. Its only when you compare it to other platforms that it is clear that WM is catching up. In isolation, compared to WM 6.1, WM 6.5 is pretty desirable.

    btw, by your definition, the iPhone is not touch compatible, as the multi-touch zooming feature is difficult to do with one hand.

    BTW, larger screened WM devices like the 3.8 inch HTC Touch HD or the 4.1 inch Toshiba TG01 are pretty easy to use without stylus. I should know having lost enough of them.

    BTW, I am not arguing against innovation, but against this pervasive anti-WM propaganda which catastrophizes the current WM situation. Just that WM is doing fine, except for bloggers like you who imply the OS is in deep trouble when its not.

    Lets look at your conclusion:

    "Microsoft really needs to do something to breath new life into Windows Mobile if they want consumers to upgrade to a new phone to get the OS."

    I hope you can admit this is not the case. I will upgade to the Touch Pro 2 in a New York Minute, whatever MS does to the OS.

  16. I think you are overreacting to my opinion. I don't think WM is somehow instantly doomed with 6.5, I just think there is a lot of opportunity for MS to do more with this rev that would make it much more interesting. As it stands, it's a point rev that I can't make myself get excited about.

    I think you are confusing evolutionary with revolutionary. The features you mention are an evolution, not a complete revolution. The one bit of innovation that I will concede to you is the online backup.

    With regard to Windows Media Player, the version shown at MWC was the same version as in 6.1. Also, no Zune integration of any kind was displayed on the build shown at MWC.

    In my opinion, there are two obvious opportunities for MS to innovate with 6.5: Zune convergence and Xbox integration. Zune convergence would seem to be the quickest win: give WM users the same experience that Zune users have. The Zune interface (both on the device and desktop) has received a lot of praise. The PS3 and PSP are a great example of integrating a set top box and a portable device. Imagine the possibilities if your WinMo phone was integrated to your 360!

    I am not wealthy enough to purchase a new smart phone or PDA every year. I have to carefully weigh what the new product will offer me over my current product. In the case of 6.5, I'm just not seeing enough to warrant the cost to upgrade from my 6.1 device. If 6.5 offered Zune convergence so I could consolidate from a Zune + WinMo Phone down to just a WinMo phone, I might be more interested. If 6.5 allowed me to integrate with a Xbox 360 to download a portable version of my games to take with me on the road, it might encourage me to loosen my wallet. For now I'll continue to be happy with my current device.

    BTW - The iPhone, G1, and BlackBerry are not even contenders for me. I don't have the cash to pay for an unlimited data plan, and all of those devices require it. Windows Mobile devices are the only devices that allow me to have a cheap, voice-only cellular plan and still use all of the features of the device over a WiFi connection. This is why I am sincere in comparing WM only to itself.

    BTW - Out of curiousity, how did you come across my blog / this post?

    BTW - Thank you, again, for this interesting conversation :-)

  17. yI think with 90% certainty WM 6.5 will come with Zune integration. We have seen plenty of hints of this, in job postings and even statements by executives. They are just not ready to show anything of yet.

    Regarding having to buy a new device to get the latest version of the OS, we know due to xda-developers you dont have to. You never said what you are running, but if its a modern device like a Fuze for example you will not have any problem.

    I found your blog by doing a google blog search. I do one a few times per day, looking for the latest Windows Mobile news, and very often it I come across articles which I feel are slanted, and wish to add a dissenting opinion. Its what comments are about, are they not?