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The day the Windows died

I always thought Windows 2000 was the point of over-service for Microsoft. The book linked below puts a date on the point when Microsoft could and should have created an autonomous division whose task would be to create the platform that would eventually disrupt its core business.

Clearly Microsoft did not do this but Apple, with iPad, did.

In September 1999, Kodesh wrote a memo to Gates and Ballmer under the heading “Starting from Scratch.” We need to kill Windows CE for those categories, he argued. Win32 is not an advantage; it’s a tax on device design. It served to further Microsoft’s strategy but not to help consumers. Given all their other alternatives, electronics manufacturers wouldn’t pay the tax. Kodesh wanted to take a small group of developers and work solely on developing the best software for information appliances, unconstrained by the needs of the rest of the company. Gates rejected the suggestions. “It’s very disappointing you feel that way,” he told Kodesh. “We don’t have time to start from scratch.”

link: Who Fatally Wounded Microsoft? It Was Bill Gates. « Mike Cane’s iPad Test


Why HTC (Part II)

Starting in January, Apple launched a series of C-Level discussions with tier-1 handset makers to underscore its growing displeasure at seeing its iPhone-related IP infringed. The lawsuit filed against HTC thus appears to be Apple’s way of putting a public, lawyered-up exclamation point on a series of blunt conversations that have been occurring behind closed doors.

link: Apple talks tough to handset makers – Apple 2.0 – Fortune Brainstorm Tech

Top-tier handset makers continued to avoid implementing multi-touch, but Apple could safely assume that they were hanging back to gauge Apple’s response to Motorola and HTC. If there wasn’t one, the OEMs would likely read the silence as a green light, especially after Google also moved to enable multi-touch on its Nexus One phone.

Even before the lawsuit, handset makers were having second thoughts about Google, which with the Nexus One had become a direct competitor. Now their faith in Android as the easiest and cheapest way to counter the iPhone has been shaken, says Reiner.

Seems pretty close to what I wrote here:

Why HTC?

Therefore it’s entirely likely that HTC was singled out to disrupt the business logic of modular mobile software. HTC is the pioneer and the hub as the largest licensee for both WinMo/WinP and Android and the inspiration for hundreds of OEM/ODMs to make modular products.

… Other vendors looking at this licensing model might think harder about participating, and that may be the whole point.

Why HTC?

In the suit against HTC, Apple’s listed infringing phones include HD2, Touch Pro2, Tilt2, Imagio, Pure and Touch Diamond. These all run Windows Mobile and not Android. HTC shipped 80% of the Windows Mobile units in the field, a far larger volume than Android so it stands to reason that the law suit is as much targeting Windows Mobile as Android.

In 2006 Microsoft announced that their partners/OEMs/Operators will get indemnification on IP suits regarding their OS. It’s not a sure thing that Apple’s patents cover any part of the Windows Mobile stack–vs. whatever parts HTC layered on top. However, there is a high probability that Microsoft will join Google in HTC’s defense.

I should also point out that the media’s emphasis on Google as the exclusive target of the suit is sensationalistic. Focusing on Google possibly misses a hidden agenda.

Namely that Apple is attacking the hub of the modular approach to mobile computing while largely leaving the integrated vendors like Palm and RIM alone (the dispute with Nokia is over license terms for GSM patents and not yet about UI patents).

Therefore it’s entirely likely that HTC was singled out to disrupt the business logic of modular mobile software. HTC is the pioneer and the hub as the largest licensee for both WinMo/WinP and Android and the inspiration for hundreds of OEM/ODMs to make modular products.

HTC’s defense will be complicated and difficult due to these dependencies. Legal risk weighs heavily on large corporations, especially when the payoff is marginal at best. Other vendors looking at this licensing model might think harder about participating, and that may be the whole point.


Microsoft: Mobile Platforms Don't Matter

AppleInsider | Microsoft Pink-Zune details emerge alongside Windows Phone 7

Dilger in fine form today ripping Microsoft a new one.

The collapse of its Windows Mobile Marketplace has now caused Microsoft to radically reword its mobile app strategy going forward in such a way as to vilify the entire concept of apps. At the launch of Windows Phone 7, the company presented a video that portrayed the iPhone’s ability to run mobile apps as a confusing world with too many doors to choose from, each leading to rooms with starkly white walls, an experience that frustrated and puzzled a professionally dressed woman.

It really isn’t sporting anymore to pick on Microsoft in mobile. Ridicule turns to pity.


100 Million Windows Mobile Devices

by 2007. The goal was set 6 years and 3 months ago:

On November 3, 2003, Microsoft announced that it intends to sell 100 million Windows Mobile devices by year 2007. This goal has been set by Steve Ballmer. Majority of Windows Mobile devices that are expected to be sold will be smarpthones, not just PDAs (Pocket PC).

Linux.com :: 100 million mobile Windows devices by 2007

Two years after that goal, in 2009, Microsoft sold 15 million units, down from 16.5 million in 2008.

AppleInsider | Gartner: Apple’s iPhone was No. 3 worldwide smartphone in 2009


Microsoft and Nokia agree: Apple is hindering Innovation in Mobile market

From the GSMA Mobile World Congress 2009 (one year ago):

Kallasvuo used Apple and its “closed” ecosystem as an example of what could limit innovation in the mobile market in the future. He said Apple’s vertically integrated model, where its hardware and software are tightly controlled by the company, further fragmented the market. And he added that what is truly needed is more openness in developing applications.

Yes, prior to the iPhone innovation was zipping along rapidly, but now it’s stuck because the iPhone is closed. The iPhone is hindering innovation because it’s highly integrated.

Ballmer argued that device openness was important to give customers more choices. And he pointed to the number of choices that Windows Mobile customers have when choosing a device.

We’d all have more choices if we’d all choose Windows Mobile.

Fast-forward one year and Microsoft decides to offer more choice by adding a new operating system (in parallel to its existing OS) and Nokia decides to solve fragmentation by launching a new platform called MeeGo (in parallel to Symbian).


Into the Mind of a Windows Mobile User

What are we to make of the new Windows Phone 7 Series?

First, we have to distinguish it as a new platform. Let’s use Microsoft’s new naming conventions and call it “WP7S” as distinct from the current Windows Mobile 6.5 aka “WinMo”.

Steve Ballmer said they will continue to “invest” in WinMo presumably in parallel to the WP7S platform. This is an interesting development since although there might be some interoperability of applications, the new platform will likely have a new set of APIs.

What strikes a follower of the WinMo platform is that the new WP7S is orthogonal in its positioning. Whereas WinMo was for either hard core, ROM burning, .cab-editing geeks, or for corporate suits, the new WP7S is going for the Xbox, Facebook ADHD hipster user. Perhaps Microsoft is also going for the “average” user though that did not come through the presentations.

So these two constituencies (geek vs. socialite) are quite distinct and a product that pleases one won’t please the other. Evidence of this is the fact that many existing users are feeling dejected over the absence of true multi-tasking, the locked memory cards, the lack of compatibility with the old UI and apps, and the overall “dumbing down” of what they thought was a haven of nerdiness in a sea of iPhone hype.

If Microsoft pours more resources into the new WP7S at the expense of the WinMo platform then we can assume they are “firing” their loyal geek users. Frankly, they are a difficult set of customers whose advice tends to steer a product into ever-more complexity and over-service.

This sets up a potential schism repelling the geek set toward Android and the corporate set perhaps sliding toward iPhone.

That would leave Microsoft in a quixotic pursuit of iPhone users without the benefit of an ecosystem.


Platform Bonanza! Three new Platforms in one Day

Delivering precisely what the world needs today:

  • Samsung launched Bada
  • Microsoft launched Windows Phone “7 Series”
  • Nokia and Intel jointly announced MeeGo.

Three new ambitious platforms starting with zero installed bases and no applications are going up against the following:

  • Symbian with more than 200 million users and 20k apps
  • WebOS with less than 3 million users and about 1k apps
  • Windows Mobile with 30 million users and about 2k apps
  • iPhone OS, about 75 million users and 150k apps
  • Android with 3 to 5 million users and approx. 20k apps
  • Blackberry OS with more than 50 million users and a few thousand apps.

It should be noted that Microsoft’s new Windows Phone “7 Series” will compete with Microsoft’s Windows Mobile 6.5 which will continue as a product line.

MeeGo will also compete with Nokia’s existing Symbian OS for developers, replacing Maemo.

Most of these new platforms will not have products shipping for at least 6 months during which time another 50 million (at least) new users will join existing ecosystems.

There are now nine smartphone platforms, but who’s counting? I’ve been hearing predictions of consolidation for years and although platforms have come and gone (PalmOS, SavaJe), the total number continues to increase.

If nothing else, this seems to indicate that the industry is not in any state of maturity or point of “over-service” where commoditization takes place.


Dick Brass Vents

I knew of Dick Brass at the time when he was promoting ClearType inside Microsoft. We met his team to consider licensing our table recognition algorithms for the production of ebooks for Microsoft Reader, an early ebook reading solution for the PocketPC. It was then I learned about plans for “reading solutions” from Microsoft, almost 10 years ago.

Now he writes about the tragedy of Microsoft’s complete absence from the future of mobile computing.

“…why Microsoft, America’s most famous and prosperous technology company, no longer brings us the future, whether it’s tablet computers like the iPad, e-books like Amazon’s Kindle, smartphones like the BlackBerry and iPhone, search engines like Google, digital music systems like iPod and iTunes or popular Web services like Facebook and Twitter.”

Part of the answer, Brass writes, is that Microsoft put too much faith in aggressive managers (like himself) who nurtured a culture of conflict. But mostly, he says, it’s because of inter-departmental bullying by Microsoft’s established divisions and a “dysfunctional” corporate culture that thwarts innovation.

To support his contention, he offers a couple of telling anecdotes in which he does everything but name names:

Microsoft’s ClearType display technology languished in the lab for years, he says, because engineers in the Windows group “falsely claimed” it made the display go haywire, the head of Office products said it was fuzzy and gave him headaches, and the vice president for pocket devices was said he’d support ClearType only if Brass transferred the programmers to his control.

In 2001, the vice president in charge of Microsoft Office refused to modify Word, Excel and Outlook to work properly with Brass’ tablet. Result: “if you wanted to enter a number into a spreadsheet or correct a word in an e-mail message, you had to write it in a special pop-up box, which then transferred the information to Office. Annoying, clumsy and slow… To this day, you still can’t use Office directly on a Tablet PC. And despite the certainty that an Apple tablet was coming this year, the tablet group at Microsoft was eliminated.”

Brass believes that the intense, sometimes cut-throat, internal competition that Bill Gates fostered among his managers has devolved into something uncontrolled and destructive: “The big established groups are allowed to prey upon emerging teams, belittle their efforts, compete unfairly against them for resources, and over time hector them out of existence.”

He also gives a nod to the modular/integrated dichotomy to which we are always pointing accusing fingers:

“Part of the problem is a historic preference to develop (highly profitable) software without undertaking (highly risky) hardware. This made economic sense when the company was founded in 1975, but now makes it far more difficult to create tightly integrated, beautifully designed products like an iPhone or TiVo. “

“It’s not an accident,” he writes, “that almost all the executives in charge of Microsoft’s music, e-books, phone, online, search and tablet efforts over the past decade have left.”

Read More (New York Times)…


That River in Egypt

Mini-MSFT:

Windows Mobile 7: we so dropped the ball in our early phone OS presence that now it seems like it’s a losing battle to have a dog in this fight. But WinMo7 is out there. To me, I can imagine this becoming like the Zune HD: well praised and all, but not making a dent in the market because everyone has already moved on to the iPhone platform.
David Worthington interviews Brandon Watson, “director of product management in the developer platform at Microsoft”:
Watson claimed that many developers of applications for the iPhone OS–which the iPad uses–are not making money. Developing applications for the iPhone and iPad is expensive, he said, because iPhone OS uses the Objective-C language rather than Microsoft’s more pervasive .NET platform. And Apple’s control over the platform has alienated some people that make software for its products, he said.

Now if we can get the Grand Poobah of Ovi to chime in, we’ll be all set.