Microsoft has made some setbacks in the mobile world, but a change in strategy carried out over a year ago will soon pay dividends, the company’s top Windows Mobile executive said.
Andy Lees, the executive through the server unit a year ago, said that efforts by Microsoft to ensure that its mobile software might work in a wide range of inquiries led to an operating system that does not exploit advances in hardware.
“The goal of a lowest common denominator,” said Lees. Microsoft also was limited by the origin of Windows Mobile, which was developed for handheld computers that power or connected to a voice network or manipulated.
“We started when we were in the PDA (personal digital assistants), and then a phone is tied to the back of the PDA,” said Lees. The company also acknowledged that no phones – even those that were used for business – still the largest number of professional staff as they were.
Meanwhile, Apple and Google have joined the fray with the operating system designed from scratch to build the ultimate in phone technology.
But Lees said that Microsoft embarked on a new strategy that will take some time to complete over the next 18 months. The first steps in that strategy, he said, the conference announced at Mobile World Congress which takes place in Barcelona in the middle of next month.
“It’s what you’ll see a lot of announcements in the Mobile World Congress, but will also be the beginning of a 12 -, 18-months you will see a lot of different things,” said Lees.
Part of the new strategy for Microsoft, Lees said, is not based on operating system upgrades to improve its products. The new approach, while making money by selling a mobile operating system, puts considerable attention to services that help connect the phone to the PC and Web, as well as devices like the Xbox.
Microsoft has two separate teams in the work of the piece. One is the Microsoft Windows Live group, while the other is a secret group led by former Chief of Unit Roz Ho Mac – a group that also includes equipment acquired when Microsoft bought Danger. Lees refused to say specifically what it is for Ho, however.
Lees, but acknowledged the company also needs to improve the operating system kernel, which is widely seen as less than most of its rivals.
For some time, Microsoft has been working on a major overhaul of its operating system, known as Windows Mobile 7. However, that project has hit delays, prompting Microsoft to move forward with an update, Windows Mobile 6.5, the company is expected to detail next month. Lees refused to comment specifically on either version of the operating system, but promised that the company has more to say about the operating system front in Barcelona.
Lees also promised that Microsoft would begin working more closely with hardware makers. He noted that concerns late last year with LG and Samsung.
He noted that the power of the types of phones that come out next year will be incredible, even today far beyond the devices. Phones next year will have dual-core processors, super-fast data connections, and graphics power rivaling that of the original Xbox.
“That’s a phenomenal thing on a phone,” he said. The phones of the future will also have more than just information about the location of GPS sensors. “We know where it says, we know that the angle which is celebrated.”
Web browsing was another weak spot for Microsoft. The company made up some ground late last year with a pocket browser essentially crams the desktop Internet Explorer 6 on a Windows Mobile phone. But it lacks the kind of easy zoom and gesture recognition in the iPhone or pre Palm. Lees Microsoft promised that would surpass those interfaces by the end of the year.
Lees not confirm the details of a rumored rival Apple App Store, known as SkyMarket.
“There is some question whether we can connect directly with the developer and end user,” he said. “We’re seeing that.”
Apple dismissed the idea that Microsoft and others, are gaining ground for the iPhone, however.
Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer dismissed the increasing competition from rival Apple kept saying “coming years”.
“Our competitors are scrambling to try to copy our success,” he said.