By Greg Mills
In the extremely high stakes competition in smart phone operating systems, Microsoft's new Mobile OS appears to be a stone loser. This is for a number of indisputable reasons.
The expensive advertising program (rumored to be half a billion dollars) which will be launched soon, and the efforts of various hardware companies and cell phone carriers rallied to support Vista 7 are likely to be a doomed and completely wasted effort. This will certainly end Microsoft's presence in the mobile market, which includes both smart phones and slate computers.
The future of computers is the smartphone and slate market, and everyone knows it. I think Microsoft is toast. Goldman Sachs already downgraded Microsoft stock to neutral, saying "the company needed to show some progress on mobile devices such as the smartphone and a device to compete with the iPad." Goldman analyst Sarah Friar wrote in her report, "The company needs an immediately successful Windows Phone 7 launch"
Sorry, Sarah when the air in the launch party balloons go down, the market will likely severely punish the gang that can't shoot straight ... again. Short Microsoft, go long on Apple. I predict Goldman will downgrade Microsoft to sell, soon.
The street had publicly laid down clear expectations that true innovation will be required for their new Mobile OS to be relevant and, again, Microsoft has failed to preform. Zune, Ken, Vista and now Mobile Vista 7 have all failed to offer anything really new or compelling to excite consumers or investors in Microsoft products or stock. The issue is not as much what the new platform amounts to, but the poor timing and lack of compelling new features.
Even if it doesn't crash all the time, or have serious worm or virus problems, is there a market for another major mobile OS? Timing is everything. The notion of Cinderella coming to the ball at 11:45 p.m. and winning the heart of the prince before rushing off at midnight is a true fairy tale in the fast developing smartphone and slate computer market.
Had this new platform been launched shortly after iPhone took off, it would be different. Had this mobile OS been launched about the same time as Google's Android OS, Vista 7 might have found a market. It is just too late for something that is not really compelling. Windows Mobile 6.5 is expected to remain the Microsoft platform for business smart phones while the new Vista 7 will be the consumer smartphone platform. Neither platform is compelling.
I read a number of breathlessly excited articles about why Apple's iOS is toast and Microsoft is the toaster. Not to worry, Apple. A closer examination and a careful review of the cell phone screen shots under Vista 7 tell another story: that of Microsoft relabeling Apple innovation and calling it their own.
While they went back to the drawing board, they didn't have any new ideas to embellish their new operating system. A new home screen, a user interface that is more graphical, "tiles" instead of iOS style buttons, interfacing with Xbox live over the Internet, the old Zune interface, social network integration and connection with cloud content such as photo albums and a hardware Bing search button isn't compelling enough to rescue Vista Mobile 7. A lot of the features are likely covered by Apple patents -- and you know Apple will not stand by and see their technology stolen. It would be hard to imagine any warm fuzzy feelings between the companies at this point.
A few years back Microsoft had around a 50% market share in smart phone OS, according to Gartner Research. They now predict that by 2014 Microsoft will be down to a 3.9% market share, which is effectively out of the market. Add the dismal OS share to the lack of a robust app developer base and you spell disaster for Microsoft in the next big thing in computers, where you would have expected them to lead.
Adding further distress to Microsoft's situation, the new Mobile OS is not up to speed for running slate computers. The Xbox is upside-down to the tune of billions of dollars, so the only thing keeping Microsoft profitable right now is the old Windows OS for the PC franchise, which is also losing market share to Apple's Mac OS.
Even if the new Vista Mobile 7 OS platform was up to speed with Apple and Google's Mobile OS the "late to the party" contender is woefully short on apps. With roughly 250,000 for Apple, 90,000 for Google's Android, the new wonder Mobile OS from Microsoft weights in at about 2000 apps. Microsoft has worked hard to interest developers in their new platform -- with little success. There are issues with any platform that upsets developers -- and everyone knows what a pain in the rearward parts Microsoft can be.
From what I read, the music player portion of Vista Mobile is just a warmed over Zune which has already been panned by the market place. Try offering to buy any kid on the street a Zune or an iPod as a gift and see which they prefer. Most of them wouldn't know what a Zune is, while iPods are stolen at gun point.
The way you open apps or choose major functions in the Vista Mobile OS 7 is by touching "Tiles" instead of buttons. Gee, what is the difference? The size of the button won't make it new technology or compelling enough to matter. Adding information to the button faces sounds like Apple's badges to me. I can see the legal department at Apple warming up the copy machines to file suit for patent infringement.
One Microsoft supporter mentioned in an article that the tiles amounted to files where more than one app could be accessed while the Apple iOS required you to drag and drop apps into button open files which he called "laborious"? Would you rather let Microsoft presort your apps for you and be stuck with what they defaulted to or be able to customize your files?
With the market share of the game community Xbox has the effect of offering to hook up their smartphones to Xbox Live, which sounds like something only a part of the Xbox community would do, and that won't help much. Live Internet connected games is certainly not an exclusive for Xbox and not something that will drive smart phone sales to a completely new smart phone platform with all the baggage that brings to mind.
Explorer -- or something called Explorer -- is the mobile web browser. Explorer is like most of the Microsoft franchise. It is in decline and is down to about 50% of the market from 90% a few years ago and for good reasons. Other browsers have become preferred over Explorer despite the advantage of coming free with Windows in most any OS package or preloaded on a PC you might buy. No fresh advantage here.
Email is email and advantages or disadvantages of particular programs and are really slight. Apple is now able to do the secure email tricks enterprise demands that used to be exclusive to Microsoft Office.
MS Office applications may work better with Vista 7 than previous Microsoft smartphone operating systems, but remember, they expect the new mobile OS to be the consumer version of their product. As Ballmer himself put it, Microsoft missed a generation of smartphone software. That "missed" opportunity is going to be punished brutally.
Some people paid as much as $890 for a Windows 6.5 smartphone six months ago that will be an electronic dinosaur tomorrow when Vista 7 is launched. The contract you sign with your carrier is not canceled when the phone you get is discontinued. Ask the people stuck with two-year contracts to operate their Kin phone. There is a serious risk in buying a Vista 7 smartphone, and I think a lot of smart phone buyers are going to hedge their bets and buy Apple or Android phones to avoid Vista 7.
Stuxnet worm; Iran executes staffers
Intelligence sources report that the Russians who fled Iran had good reason to go home ASAP, as Iran began last week to execute "a number" of nuclear staff members suspected of sabotage using the Windows Stuxnet worm. Some of the executed staff members "have access to information about Iran's plans for foreign purchases and commercial affairs." Meaning, they had information that if leaked to the enemies could have allowed the Stuxnet worm to infect computer systems.
It is more likely, according to some experts, that USB flash drives, which are very common and cheap, might well have been the easy way for someone to secretly introduce the malware into Windows machines. A handful of free USB drives, handed out to the right people, would have been enough to seed the worm without the staffers ever knowing they infected the systems. The worm spreads wildly, and then the fun and games begins in the control systems.
Iran is now admitting that the new nuclear reactor will not be turn on anytime soon. The damage to the plutonium centrifuges may also be much worse than they have admitted.
With information leaking out of Iran that nuclear experts have been killed (likely not in gentle ways) will tend to make it much harder to hire foreigners and recruit Iranian scientists alike. Being tortured to death for mere suspicion of accidentally introducing a Windows worm to a PC is not your typical work related injury.
That's Greg's Bite for today
(Greg Mills, is a Faux Artist in Kansas City. Formerly a new product R&D man for the paint sundry market, he holds 11 US patents. He's working on a solar energy startup, www.CottageIndustrySolar.com using a patent pending process of turning waste dual pane glass into thermal solar panels used to heat water. Greg writes for intellectual web sites and Mac related issues. See Greg's art web site at www.gregmills.info ; His email is email@example.com )