Two Windows Mobile versions: Yay or Nay?

startmenuwinmo65The blogosphere is ablaze with commentary over the news blip that Microsoft intends to continue offering Windows Mobile 6.5 after they debut version 7. Per Digitimes:

Microsoft will not phase out Windows Mobile 6.5 from the market but will lower the OS price, when it launches Windows Mobile 7 scheduled in the fourth quarter of 2010, the sources added.

The dual-platform strategy will allow Microsoft to compete with Android-based platform using Windows Mobile 6.5 and also compete with iPhones leveraging Windows Mobile 7, the sources asserted.

Reaction has ranged from various levels of condemnation to pragmatism and support. I’m siding with the pragmatists on this. As Matt Miller points out, offering different versions of a mobile OS concurrently is nothing new.

Furthermore, the biggest critics I’ve seen have focused on the wrong aspect of the idea that WinMo 6.5 will be used to compete against Android. That decision, if it comes to pass, is based on pricing. Android is free; WinMo is not. Microsoft’s bread and butter are their operating systems. They can’t just give them away. They can, however, lower prices on older versions. Will WinMo 6.5 be as good as next year’s version of Android? Probably not, but they should be comparable enough to compete if the price is right.

As for the criticism that Q4 2010 is way too late to release WinMo 7 (or Windows Phone, as the rebrand should be complete by then), I think it depends on how good it is. The UI on 6.5, taking cues from the current Zune OS, is very sharp. As long as version 7 improves on that, it could be a big winner, though at that late date, the improvement would need to be dramatic indeed. Hardly an ideal plan, but I can’t say it’d be a disaster. What do you think?

2 Comments

  1. Nameless

    08/20/2009 at 12:15 pm

    I think there’s more to this dual-OS strategy than mere pricing.

    It seems that Windows Mobile 7 is up for some very drastic changes. Not just under-the-hood changes like in Windows Mobile 5, but an interface overhaul that could very well smash the software library that Windows Mobile as we know it has accumulated over the years. Keeping WM6.5 around could be a means of giving users time to transition while still satiating the appetite for new gadgets.

    However, Microsoft already has a major issue with standardization. Windows Mobile already comes in three flavors: touchscreen and phone (Professional), touchscreen and no phone (Classic), and phone and no touchscreen (Standard). If that wasn’t enough, we now have many different resolutions to cater to between versions: 240×240, 320×240, 320×320, 640×480, and 800×480. (Standard may also have 176×220 or something like that.) I didn’t even touch on the Zune HD and its 480×272 screen, which isn’t proper Windows Mobile per se, but very similar.

    Can they afford to manage two (maybe three) mobile OSes like that, especially when one of them is extremely fragmented as mentioned above?

    Reply

  2. GoodThings2Life

    08/20/2009 at 3:19 pm

    This is a moot issue, and I don’t understand the issue… 5.0 and 6.1 were out together for quite a while… now 6.5 and 6.1 are gonna be out this year… and next it will be 7.0 and 6.5… why are we even having this discussion? How is this confusing?

    Reply

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