Tony Poulos Tony Poulos Market Strategist - TM Forum

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Is the Microsoft ship really sinking?

  • April 2010 and the news from Microsoft was the unveiling of a pair of handsets sourced from Sharp known as the Kin One and Kin Two. The devices were being marketed as Windows Phones, and while they're ultimately based on most of the same underpinnings of Windows Phone 7, they were supposed to provide a distinctly and totally different experience. The entire user interface, custom to Kin had a heavy social media slant, a custom browser (we were told it was based on the Zune's browser), and surprisingly, zero support for third-party apps. The displays were capacitive with support for multitouch, but there was no support for in-browser Flash or Silverlight. However, the underlying OS was definitely not the much vaunted Windows Phone 7 that is not due for release until December this year.

    June 2010 and Microsoft Corp has pulled the plug on the Kin phones less than three months after unveiling the devices that were part of its efforts to catch-up with Apple and Google in the fast-growing mobile market.

    Reuters has reported that Microsoft has canceled plans to sell its Kin phones in Europe this Fall. The company added the internal team working on the Kin phones would be combined with the group working on Microsoft's forthcoming Windows Phone 7 software.

    The move underscores the challenges facing Microsoft, whose software is used on the vast majority of the world's PCs, as it strives to adapt to consumers' growing taste for handheld Internet-connected devices like smartphones.

    Let’s not forget that also in April, Microsoft said it was shelving an internal project to develop a tablet PC similar to Apple's iPad. Last month, it reorganized its mobile phone and video game division, announcing that the senior vice-presidents in charge of phones and games would report directly to Chief Executive Steve Ballmer.

    I’m actually starting to feel sorry for Microsoft. It’s like a big oil tanker that has a faulty rudder or directionless captain, steering ever so slowly in all directions. In comparison it seems its competitors are riding nimble luxury cruisers with high-speed, turbo-charged engines.
    The decisions being made by senior management are baffling.  Recently Ballmer was reported as saying that 90 percent of Microsoft staff were working on Cloud Services and SaaS offerings as this was where the future of the company lay. Obviously the other 10 per cent were struggling with the mobile phone strategy after plans to develop a tablet-like device, presumably to compete with the iPad, were dropped.

    And who, in their right mind, would release an interim handset based on an OS that was well past its prime adapting features from the Zune which hardly set the world on fire itself? Add some unbelievably flawed marketing department that convinced management to announce a new mobile phone OS with the original and creative name of Windows Phone 7 at the leading mobile event in February but with a December release date.

    Wow, that technique worked (badly). Previously loyal device makers like HTC seem to have put their eggs firmly in the Android basket. Previously loyal OEMs like HP acquired struggling Palm, and its brilliant OS, for a song that presumably will power future mobile phones and upcoming tablets.

    If I was a Microsoft stock holder I’d be starting to think of dumping my shares about now.  That big oil tanker may have ruled the IT ocean in the past but it looks like it has struck a leak and it appears that Captain Ballsup may not be able to steer it past the rocks and into a safe port in time to save it. It appears that some key staff are already heading for the liferafts.

    Tony Poulos
    About Tony Poulos Tony Poulos works as Market Strategist at TM Forum
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