It's the User Experience Stupid

Lots of people are writing the obituary for Windows Mobile. Here's the latest piece to do so: "Does Microsoft Windows Mobile Have A Future?" I was in that camp too, arguing that Microsoft should ditch WinMo and buy Palm, etc. I was a pretty harsh critic of the OS (and had been a 6.1 user for a long time). Compared to the iPhone or Android it was really lacking.

But upon seeing 6.5 in video demos (though not in my hand) I changed my tune. To me Windows Mobile 6.5 looks much improved and as though it has a fighting chance when combined with elegant hardware. And if Redmond can continue to innovate and improve the user experience it will be competitive. After all there are 30 million users of Windows Mobile handsets today. Those folks presumably would stay with the platform if it continues to improve. 

A big challenge for Microsoft is how to position "Windows Phones." Are they for business users (vs. RIM), are they for consumers (vs. Palm, Apple, Android)? Microsoft says both. But Microsoft doesn't control the user experience and hardware integration as fully as RIM, Apple and Palm. It's most like Android in that regard. 

An improved user experience and competitive pricing (especially the latter) will drive sales of 6.5 phones while we wait for a stronger experience in Windows Mobile 7. But I now believe it's much too soon to count Microsoft out in mobile. It would be somewhat different if Microsoft were in denial and not aware of its challenges in mobile, but the company seems to be (behind the scenes at least). 

Also, the OneApp "platform" for feature phones could see some great success. Recall that feature phones constitute more than 80% of the market.