Microsoft Should Make Its Own Handhelds and Smartphones

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In a recent interview with the German web site diewelt.de, Microsoft President and CEO Steve Ballmer talked about the reversal of a long-held company trend.

By and large, Microsoft has been a software company. But, in recent years, it seems this company has become much more open to the idea of making hardware.

The most obvious example of this is the Xbox, the only stand-alone computer Microsoft has made in many years. But in his interview Ballmer said that this might not be the last. As he went on to say, his company has become increasingly more open to exceptions to what has been a basic rule.

Ballmer’s comments include the possibility that his company could make its own smartphones and handhelds.

Is This a Good Idea?

I can understand why some people might be nervous about Microsoft making its own mobile devices. Heck, the monopolistic possibilities make me a touch nervous, too. 

But there are a couple of fairly simple reasons why I approve of the idea of Microsoft making its own handhelds and smartphones.

The reason I like this idea the most is because I think it would give Microsoft important insights into creating mobile devices. Until now, this company has only been a creator of mobile operating systems, but that’s only half the equation.

By developing its own hardware, Microsoft engineers would see the whole picture. They would get a real feel on what it takes to create a mobile device that will either sink or swim.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that Microsoft engineers get tons of feedback from Windows Mobile licensees. But that’s second-hand experience. This can’t possibly compare to the visceral experience of actually having to create a handheld or smartphone that will need to compete in the marketplace.

More Competition = Better Products

The trend in the mobile industry that worries me the most is the move towards consolidation. Over the years, a disturbing number of important companies have stopped making handhelds and smartphones, from Toshiba to Sony.

Lately, too many wireless carriers seem content to pick and choose from the latest offerings from HTC, leaving alternative smartphone makers out in the cold.

At this point, I’m happy to see any new company enter this arena. If this was a company with Microsoft’s clout, that would be even better.

Bring on the Good Stuff

So I’m glad Ballmer is open to the idea of Microsoft creating its own mobile devices, and not depending on its Windows Mobile licensees.

I hope that I’ve convinced this company’s engineers that, by doing so, they will gain new insights into this market while spurring competition.

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