Monthly Archives: July 2010

Calling Microsoft’s Next of Kin

In  Microsoft’s struggle to remain relevant in the exploding mobile device market, they withdrew their latest attempt at a teen social networking device from the market.  The Kin’s market life was about 50 days.  It was a decent device , just  two years late to the game.

You can light a candle in memory of the Kin at kinrip.com. Its a very touching memorial website.  May its memory be a blessing.

According to Engadget part of Kin’s delay was caused by Microsoft scrapping the IP, or part of it, that it paid $500M for in their acquisition of Danger and instead re-developing the device on the soon to also be defunct Windows CE system.   Engadget also reports on corporate power plays, executive infighting and internal office politics.   Not what you would expect.

If this is not a Harvard Business Case Analysis in the making for a new crop of Cambridge bound MBA’s , I don’t know what would be.  You can read the full Engadget analysis through this link. The key element that is dominating the new super-phone marketplace is the ever-increasing velocity of innovation.

Microsoft announced their new Smartphone OS –Windows Mobile  7 – in January 2010.  The first devices with this Microsoft OS are expected to hit the market near the December holiday season.  In that same period of time Apple released their new iPhone and a new iPhone OS, the iPad, an Ad network, and who knows what else we will see in the next 6 months!   The Android ecosystem will have almost two-dozen variants, with each new device more spectacular than the last.  HP acquired Palm and is integrating their technology into their netbooks, and perhaps producing another new line of smartphones.  RIM’s Blackberry will have several releases and a new OS,  and of course Nokia’s product line has a makeover with a new operating system.  The speed of innovation is accelerating at a dizzying pace.  This is great for consumers, great for innovation and great for moving services to the market quicker.

And Microsoft?

They introduced, and then killed one phone and announced that they will have a new system by the end of 2010.

One thing is certain; the world is not waiting around for Microsoft to deliver their Windows Mobile 7 devices.

But maybe we should be, and here’s why.

Microsoft has  too much corporate talent, financial resources and computing market reach to just pull up their tents and go home in the most important computing segment.   Microsoft survived the debacle of Vista because they are Microsoft,  and have had virtual monopoly power in desktop computing.  In mobile, Microsoft is not the leader in market share, thought leadership or industry hype.  They have to slug it out with a crowded field of very nimble and powerful competitors.  This means they have to innovate and be quick about it to survive.   Having almost a one-year duration from product announcement to introduction is just not getting it done.

The irony is that the marketplace could really benefit from a strong Microsoft presence.

Apple is getting very economically aggressive with their high perch in smartphones.   Google’ Android Platform will likely eclipse Apple in aggregate sales in the next year. Do we all want to place our computing futures completely with Google?  Make no mistake about it , I am a big fan of Apple and Google.  It’s just that absolute power in markets has its downsides.  From a U.S. perspective, the only companies with the overall corporate strength to play on the same field with Apple and Google are RIM and Microsoft.  Nokia could be a legit player, globally,  but their position in the U.S. is just not strong enough.

In the irony of ironies, Microsoft is the leading candidate to challenge the emerging monopolistic leaders in the smartphone business.  They can keep the competitive environment going well into the future and prevent it from stagnating into a duopoly.    The issue is that Microsoft seems incapable of getting out of their own way, with failure following failure in this space.  The Kin is just the latest mobile problem for Microsoft.   Even the name “Windows Mobile 7” is a window (sorry for the pun) to the desktop corporate computing bias.   Android, Blackberry and iPhone all sound cool.  Windows Mobile 7 conjures up images of blue screens.

I know that’s not fair but,  it is what it is.

Windows Mobile 7  seems like a name picked for internal synergistic and political reasons and not one geared for mobile market success. If there was ever a company that seemed to have all the assets in place to dominate the mobile smart phone business, it was Microsoft.  Now they are trying to be in the mix and be relevant.

If Windows Mobile 7 is not a success, then the last card for Microsoft to play will be the another acquisition , perhaps RIM?

For the sake of keeping Apple and Google honest in this space, I am hoping for a success from Microsoft.

Do you believe that Microsoft’s Mobile team can deliver?

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