Microsoft's Mobile Plan


If you haven't seen it, Motorola launched the MPx100 at 3GSM and it's pretty great. For American and European markets, it has just about everything it needs to be a real competitor to the Nokia 6600 smartphone (which has sold over two million units since last October) and even the media-darling Treo 600.

If you don't see the big tsunami of PR and marketing coming from the Northwest, let me clue you in to the spin: It's not about market share, or quality, it's about quantity of devices. Microsoft Windows Mobile in one form or another is running on dozens of devices, which they are going to trot out to show just how "successful" their OS is. Despite the fact that Palms still outsell PocketPCs and Windows Mobile-based Smartphones only have an insanely small share of the smart phone market, Microsoft is going to spin it as if they have momentum.

Which, actually, they may have. A year or so ago, the industry blew off Microsoft because they had no major manufacturers lined up to make their phones. Remember that? Now with Motorola and Samsung both making Smartphones (the #2 and #3 handset manufacturers respectively) that is no longer an issue. And the carriers? Well, Microsoft has been sidling up to them from the very beginning, looking to take advantage of the historical animosity the carriers sometimes have for the manufacturers who provide their handsets. Look no farther than the Vodafone deal as proof of Microsoft's influence in this area. I wonder if Vodafone will try a corporate version of Live! featuring Smartphones?

Remember, Microsoft has a sales rep assigned to *every* enterprise on the planet already (well, every enterprise that uses Windows... i.e. everyone). So extending their presence to Mobile is just as simple as throwing a few SDKs on the MSDN CDs and sending out a few sample Smartphones to CTOs. Combining forces with a few carriers, and suddenly Microsoft is on the map. Already here in the U.S. I can get a Microsoft device from every major carrier. That's pretty good penetration for a company that's supposed to be an also-ran in the mobile market.

Anyways, this all goes back to my original points about Microsoft - they are ruthless, hyper-competive, focused and have a longer view of the market than any of their competitors. And with $50 billion in the bank they can just continue to pump dollars into a market until they start seeing payback. All Microsoft needs now is that one hit phone - the MPx100 may be it for them. They just need one phone which outsells its Nokia equivalent and suddenly every corporate manager in the country will start signing orders in bulk for their employees. Maybe this won't happen in 2004, but it might. In many ways the consumer market is a lottery, and Microsoft is definitely busy right now buying up all the tickets.

I predict that a push will start at the end of March. Microsoft will have its arsenal of new handsets in hand, have the mobile developer's conference to prep its minions on the newest version of the mobile OS, then there will be that slow ratcheting up of pressure on the market. We'll see more Windows Smartphones appearing in Sunday supplements, we'll see more articles appearing in the tech journals, the MSDN libraries will go out so we'll start seeing more techies playing with .Net Compact, more mobile blogs will get free hardware (SPOT watches, anyone?), invites for all-expense-paid trips to Mobius will be sent. Generally Microsoft will use every possible outlet to get their message out. But unlike times in the past when their pitch was easy to blow off, this time they have the OS and the hardware to back their message up, or at least not appear as farsical as in the past.

Part of what I'm writing is just annoyance because I've just been watching Microsoft play this hand out for the past year or so. They've just been relentless. Next year when Microsoft has significant market share and there starts to appear articles about how the numbers of .Net Compact developers are similar to the number of J2ME developers and how J2ME is woefully underpowered for the needs of the Enterprise, I'm going to be the guy just shaking my head and muttering to myself about how the disaster could've been averted.

Fuck, after seeing the MPx100, I'm muttering to myself already.


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