The Case for Windows Mobile

Why would anyone want to use Microsoft’s mobile OS?

The Wall Street Journal called Windows Mobile a "clunky, antiquated, menu-driven operating system," and The New York Times has said that Windows Mobile "is a mess.” Needless to say, Microsoft has really struggled with its ability to bring the message of Windows Mobile to the marketplace.

The mainstream media does nothing but bash Windows Mobile, and the number of pro-Windows Mobile Web sites and blogs seems to be dwindling. In fact, this article is being printed in what is likely the very last Windows Mobile-focused issue of Smartphone & Pocket PC magazine.

With all of this negativity, why would anyone want to use Windows Mobile? Why would any consumer pick it over an iPhone, and why would an enterprise go with it over BlackBerry?

More than a smartphone

The primary difference between Windows Mobile and the iPhone or the BlackBerry is that fact that while Apple and RIM provide a device with proprietary hardware and software, Windows Mobile is a standardized piece of software that runs on hundreds of different devices from dozens of manufacturers. That distinction provides enormous flexibility when it comes to the wide variety of form factors and customizable user experiences for both consumers and enterprises alike. Whatever wireless carrier you prefer, whether you want a touch screen or not, a keyboard or not, or if you prefer a flip, slide, or candy bar form factor, Windows Mobile provides an enormous number of options to best meet your needs. Additionally, that flexibility gives enterprises the type of control that they need to address the many different ways that their users might need to use their devices.

Consumer appeal vs. enterprise capabilities

While Microsoft has focused on building a platform that appeals to enterprise buyers, they failed to ever truly connect with the consumer. At the same time, Apple developed a product that first connected with the hearts and minds of consumers, and then used that as leverage to penetrate the enterprise, adding enterprise-demanded features along the way.

Right or wrong, Microsoft focused on building a product that would target business customers. Apple built a product that connected with consumers, and as such it is being brought into the enterprise whether they like it or not.

Competitive landscape or a monopoly

There seems to be an increasingly competitive marketplace for smartphones, especially within the enterprise, as Android, Palm OS, BlackBerry, and iPhone are all competing with Windows Mobile for market share. That perception, though, is quite skewed as it only covers part of what Windows Mobile is used for in the enterprise.

While there are many options for devices with voice and e-mail capabilities, there is a clear winner when it comes to line-of-business applications beyond e-mail. For ruggedized devices, wireless barcode scanners, and handhelds used for field service, inventory control, and hundreds of other types of mission-critical business solutions, your choice of platform is essentially Microsoft (Windows CE or Windows Mobile).

While most of the rugged devices powering these mobile line-of-business systems are running Windows CE, there is significant growth in the adoption of Windows Mobile. Under the hood, both Windows CE and Windows Mobile are running the same core operating system, and both can run the applications developed with the .NET Compact Framework. Though most people aren’t aware of it, Microsoft essentially has a monopoly when it comes to powering industrial-strength mobile solutions. Ironically, even Apple uses Microsoft Windows-powered mobile devices to keep track of inventory and provide a wireless point-of-sales experience for customers. Why Microsoft doesn’t leverage that message is beyond me.


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