Microsoft finally admits what’s wrong with WinMo

A short but remarkably revealing report in DetroitNews, Microsoft to chase iPhone:

Microsoft Corp. plans to bring some of the features of rival Apple Inc.’s iPhone to a broader market through its Windows Mobile software, said mobile-phone chief Andy Lees.

Microsoft will use its ties with handset makers to encourage iPhone-like functions in a range of less costly devices, Lees, a senior vice president, said in an interview ahead of the CTIA Wireless show.

In one example, the iPhone advanced the technology around so-called graphics acceleration, which allows the software design to be more fluid and movie-like, he said.

When, for well over a decade, every single smartphone manufacturer failed to even try, how did a newcomer like Apple do that?

“Apple took a bet on expensive hardware and designed the software around the hardware,” Lees said. “That allowed Apple to design a phone with superior graphics capabilities.”

In other words, Apple’s unique ability to integrate hardware and software, and being in charge of its own systems-design destiny was the secret. Why not Microsoft?

Microsoft, [Lees] said, wasn’t set up to help match that in its software.

But wasn’t the separation of hardware and software what made Microsoft the most powerful technology company in the world? Haven’t Microsoft executives (and tech pundits) been telling us this separation (choice and reliance on “partners”) was what made Microsoft’s platform superior to Apple’s foolish insistence of going it alone?

What will Microsoft do now?

Microsoft is working with its hardware manufacturers to make those kinds of innovations more rapidly available as an industry, Lees said.

Welcome to the absurdity of design coordination across several continents among “partners” with different cultures, innovation capabilities, corporate agendas and competitive pressures. Unfortunately for Microsoft to repudiate this is tantamount to repudiating its PC history, which still provides the vast majority of its revenues. Welcome to the Zune generation, Microsoft. Rock. Hard place.

23 thoughts on “Microsoft finally admits what’s wrong with WinMo

  1. Pingback: Microsoft passes the “choice” bludgeon against Apple to Google « counternotions

  2. “Apple took a bet on expensive hardware”

    Umm, not sure where they get that notion from. Expensive smartphones have been around for ages with many more expensive than the iPhone both before it and since. In fact, comparing outright purchase (if it’s available in your part of the world) the iPhone is quite reasonably priced in the smartphone market.

  3. Pingback: ‘A Apple é má’, dizem profetas do absurdo »

  4. Pingback: Before Apple introduced the iPhone… « counternotions

  5. I often wonder if Apple distracts Microsoft with simple misdirection. While Microsoft is misled into thinking Apple is still fighting the last PC platform war (which to Apple is already over and they’re just playing get-whatever-little-bit-we-can), Apple is really focused on establishing the next platform – the mobile handheld. I haven’t seen an “I’m a Mac” ad since before Christmas (the only Mac ads these days are about being green), whereas those iPhone/iPod touch ads are on all the time. It looks to me that Apple has moved on.

    • Good observation. Unfortunately, buttressed by addictive Windows/Office monopoly revenues, Microsoft just hasn’t learned to operate in competitive consumer markets. PC is all they know and they’re trying to rinse & repeat.

    • Good point. I do believe that Microsoft now sees what is happening. The problem is, they are not in a position to do much about it. They are not nimble enough to change direction, and they’ve already proven that they have no expertise in producing and selling actual products (Zune, anyone?). Their best bet would be to make sure that Windows and Office are the best they can be and to make sure that Office is ready for the advent of cloud computing. When you still run 90% of the world’s computers, perhaps you should concentrate on that.

  6. I don’t think, as many do, that there was anything inherently “evil” about the way Microsoft took over the PC industry. They did steal some stuff – PC DOS and GUI to name a couple, but basically they came up with one good idea which they ruthlessly facilitated. The problem now for MS is that the idea of one OS which can be used on numerous hardware platforms is an idea whose time has come and gone. The complexity of today’s hardware and software no longer supports such a simplistic business model. Integration is where it’s at. That they seem determined to continue apply this same strategy to the mobile phone market after it has already shown that it is long in the tooth is nothing more than a corporate ostrich act.

    What’s happening now is that while Microsoft continues to ignore the inevitable, they have also become so distracted chasing things like search that they are allowing their core competencies to suffer. There is no excuse for the XP – Vista – Windows 7 debacle which Microsoft currently finds itself mired in, while their recent reactionary advertisements do not represent the sort of campaign that a market leader should be embarking upon. They have allowed Apple to choose the time and terrain of battle, which is always a precursor to defeat.

  7. We live in a world of supply chains anyway. Apple has built a business model around their own strength, which includes full control of the hardware – software interface. But Apple does have and does need interfaces with other players in the supply chain. When you are a different company with different strengths, why wouldn’t it be possible to choose different interfaces?

    • Berend Schotanus : “We live in a world of supply chains anyway.”

      Sure. We also live in a world where your success depends on how well you can control that chain, component prices, inventory levels, etc. Microsoft has no competence in that. Apple has become a world-class leader in the past five years.

      IOW, Apple can spend massive R&D dollars on, say, touch-screens or Flash drives because it can be reasonably assured of acquiring sufficient quantities of them in a cost effective and timely manner. And it can then design a system around them whose lifespan it can control over, say, 3-5 years and thus can go out and sell it to third party developers as a consistent platform. Apple can make periodic OS updates and be certain of universal adoption. It can unlock hardware/firmware features left dormant in existing devices. It can tweak its cloud services to better align with its hardware and software. It can create gateways like iTunes or push services to gather massive data on usage patterns to gain insight for subsequent innovation. It can also create end-user applications with certainty as to how and when they can be universally delivered over a known platform. The list of such advantages is nearly endless.

      Artificially separated platforms like what Microsoft is dreaming about are at the mercy of integrated ones, like Apple’s and RIM’s.

  8. What is so interesting is that Microsoft hardly makes a profit on Windows Mobile. It may actually be losing hugely on it.

    Apple, on the other, hand makes tons on money on the iPhone to the point the iPhone is on peer with the iPod and Mac as the 3 legs of Apple’s profit table.

    Outside of Windows and Office, Microsoft loses on nearly everything else it does.

  9. Personally, I think MS’s only real hope for future relevance is to go more or less open source. The (current) ubiquity of their offerings is the only card they really have.

    However, it’s such a completely counter-intuitive option that it would take a Jobs-like figure at Microsoft to see it, and they either have no such people, or they don’t have the power to change anything.

    • I think you hit the nail on the head – there is so much that seems so obvious to many of us which is so counter-intuitive to the culture at Microsoft that it is literally like trying to steer the proverbial aircraft carrier. This was supposedly why they brought in Raymond Ozzie, but there’s no room on the bridge with Ballmer at the helm.

      I will say this much – if Steve Jobs has had anywhere near the influence on the corporate culture at Apple as Bill Gates has had on Microsoft, the investors should not worry. Jobs could leave today and Apple would continue on its merry innovative way for decades.

  10. “At what point does this untenable situation snap?”

    GM was at a similar strategic crossroad in the mid-seventies. So it could be over 30 years…

  11. Microsoft screws its hardware partners too often for them to risk investing in MS promises.

    Ask Dell and HP how happy they were when MS diluted the Vista requirements to nothing, allowing cheap crap to sell as Vista-capable, while they were waiting for the Intel chipset and certification program to be truly Vista-capable on Microsoft’s documented plans.

    Ask any manufacturer who made Windows (XP) Media Centre-compatible pcs, only to see MS come out with Zune and Vista, with incompatible players, online stores and purchase accounts.

    Welcome to the sociopath. No wonder PC hardware makers are dying for Apple to license OS X to third parties.

  12. I continue to wonder what will happen to Microsoft. They are still the major player in the market, but still so obviously without a future unless they can find a way to challenge the “new” Apple paradigm of unified design. They are left pushing software alone and most of it is old, redundant and hugely overpriced relative to the market.

    At what point does this untenable situation snap? Will they collapse and re-invent themselves as a vertical player by entering into design and manufacture? Will they downsize, selling off the tiny profitable bits and focus on their “core competencies” even as the market for those products shrinks and evaporates?

    Will they go open source?

  13. Microsoft keeps putting the blame on its hardware partners. But MS should be called on it, because HTC built a touch UI on top of WinMo that works okay (in its limited way), so clearly the hardware was sufficient but WinMo software was woefully lacking.

  14. The irony here is that these comments are coming from a SOFTWARE company! They’re essentially saying that the cell-phone makers need to throw more hardware at the WinMo OS and everything will be fine.

  15. Agreed, Microsoft and its partners failed to work together. Compounding this is Microsoft’s lack of vision and initiative regarding what would make a better experience and then determining what part of that vision could be implemented. If Microsoft had a vision of a “more fluid and movie-like” experience, it could’ve persuaded at least one partner to take a risk on “expensive hardware.” Instead, even after having been shown what Apple did, Ballmer mocked it rather than recognize the threat and mobilize for action.

    Relative to MS, this whole episode is looking to be a repeat of what happened with mp3 players and the iPod.

  16. “Apple took a bet on expensive hardware and designed the software around the hardware,” Lees said. “That allowed Apple to design a phone with superior graphics capabilities.”

    This is still a false analysis of the success of the iPhone. “Superior graphics capabilities?” Puhlease! First and foremost Apple had a clear vision of how they thought a cell phone should work and how a user should interact with a device that fits in your pocket. Furthermore, once Apple had a clear vision of what they should do, they had an even clearer vision of what they should NOT do: chicklet keyboards, small screens, emphasis on camera megapixels, buttons, FM tuners, etc.

    In fact, I would say it’s just the opposite. Apple decided what the software should do and then designed the hardware to enable the software. MS has it completely backasswards once again.

  17. I believe it should be:

    Rock. -= Microsoft. =- Hard place.


    Microsoft has enough decidedly ignorant or unfortunately foolish advocates to be able to pretend that both strategies work.

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