Microsoft’s mobile strategy is a mess and rivals like Apple are running away with the mobile platform war. But Redmond has a few plans to get back in the game, and ZDNet’s Mary-Jo Foley has the scoop.
Microsoft-branded mobile phones targeted at iPhone-types. This is the “Pink” project that Microsoft has rumoured to be working on for months.
They’ll supposedly include the guts of the in-development Windows Mobile 7, which means they probably won’t be available until late next year. They’ll also include components from the Zune — which, in its latest version, actually looks decent. And probably the Sidekick, because the Danger team Microsoft paid $500 million for last year has been leading the Pink project.
Microsoft won’t manufacture these phones, Mary-Jo says, but will partner closely with manufacturers to keep a closer eye on them, collecting fees and selling services like Zune music subscriptions and video rentals. That means they should be better than the lousy Windows Mobile phones currently on the market.
A Microsoft tablet computer. The company has been providing tablet editions of Windows for PC makers for several years, but the products have all been ugly, bloated, overpriced, and unpopular.
Now that Apple is reportedly making a tablet computer — something like a large iPod touch — Microsoft is going to give its tablet vision another go. It will take inspiration from Microsoft’s multi-touch “Surface” tables, and is supposedly part of something called “Alchemy Ventures.” Microsoft might wait until after Apple introduces its tablet to show off the Redmond edition, Mary-Jo predicts.
Will either plan work? Will Microsoft finally be able to take share away from Apple in the portable gadget market?
Maybe. Microsoft has the money to do whatever it wants, and even a broken clock is right twice a day.
But based on its track record in the mobile industry — more than 10 years of mediocrity — it’s extremely unlikely.
And since most of this stuff doesn’t seem like it’ll be ready to ship until late next year, Microsoft will have to be better than what ever-improving Apple and other rivals are shipping then — not just what they’re shipping now.