Steve Ballmer talked about the future of Windows Mobile during a conference call yesterday. Among the highlights was a promise to release the next version of Microsoft’s operating system for phones in 2010.
Microsoft’s CEO is is enthusiastic about the possibilities for this OS, and he expects it to continue to grow, despite the current economic crisis. To help bring this about, the company is hard at work on new version. Windows Mobile 6.5 was unveiled a week ago, and will be released this fall, while Windows Mobile 7 is scheduled for next year.
Current, this segment of the company isn’t making money; Ballmer calls it “somewhat unprofitable.” Part of the strategy for turning this around is new online services, like the just-announced My Phone.
Windows = Windows Mobile?
When talking about the future, Ballmer promised that more technologies would be shared between the desktop and smartphone operating systems. “Windows, Windows Mobile… those two will become I’d say closer in many ways. There’s still a real distinction between what’s a phone and what’s a PC. And yet the amount of technology that can be shared across that border continues to go up.”
He specifically mentioned web browsers; the next version of Internet Explorer Mobile will be heavily based on technology from Microsoft’s desktop browser. But this is apparently just the beginning; Ballmer said that someday the operating system kernel for Windows and Windows Mobile will be the the same.
Microsoft’s CEO said, “So I think of that as a continuum, it’s two different business models, actually. The business models are somewhat different. The competitive dynamics, because of the operators, and the different device manufacturers are different, but at the end of the day the technology base will be largely shared over time, as opposed to historically where it was largely not shared.”
He said “I would say all of the consumer market mojo is with Apple, to a lesser extent Blackberry, and yet the real market momentum with operators and the real market momentum with device manufacturers seems to primarily be with Windows Mobile, and with Android.”
Ballmer also mentioned that device manufactures can make Windows phones that are less expensive than their rivals. “We have manufacturers who have low price-point phones compared to the iPhone, particularly, which is a very high priced phone. You may get subsidized down to lower prices, but the operators care a lot about what they get charged for the phone, and I think you’ll see very low cost, low price form factors with Windows Mobile, possibly also with Android as well.”
There’ll Be No mPhone
Ballmer also affirmed once again that there isn’t going to be a Microsoft-branded phone. Instead, the company is committed to working through licensees, like HTC, LG, and HP. “Not our strategy to build our own phone. It’s our strategy to sell software that we can use and support across a wide range of device manufacturers to encourage choice, choice in devices, choice in the operators.”