posted by Thom Holwerda on Thu 20th Aug 2009 16:02 UTC
IconApple's iPhone has completely destroyed the status quo that existed in the mobile operating system world before the iPhone arrived on the scene. The iPhone made it easier for people to get on the web while on the go, and despite ridicule before it was even released, it has revolutionised the industry, forcing other manufacturers to get a move on.

The iPhone has changed the mobile market rather aggressively, with companies scrambling to emulate the functionality of Apple's phone. iPhone contenders came and went, but some attempts were better received than others.

Android is still around, and despite it being in flux, it has the massive advantage of being open and free. WebOS is far more closed, but does benefit from a slick interface and a well-implemented multitasking environment. Hardware-wise, the Pre leaves things to be desired, however. RIM is also still at it, of course, and it's also doing relatively well. RIM is kind of doing its own thing, focusing on the markets it's good at.

Microsoft, however, having been more or less absent in this whole thing. Windows Mobile was never exactly love at first sight, and even today it still ships with an interface based on a desktop experience with tiny menus and scrollbars - stylus-oriented instead of finger-oriented. Microsoft is now finally trying to address the issues in Windows Mobile, but its strategy seems a bit... Counterproductive.

DigiTimes has found out that Microsoft is planning to adopt a dual-platform strategy in the mobile business, bringing its often-reviled multi-version strategy from the desktop to the mobile world. Windows Mobile 6.5 will be released in October this year, bringing some finger-oriented touch features to Windows Mobile 6.5, followed by an update in the first half of next year carrying a "touch interface".

However, a completely finger-oriented system won't arrive until the end of 2010, with Windows Mobile 7. Even then, Microsoft will keep Windows Mobile 6.5 around alongside the then-new version 7. The idea is to use version 6.5 to compete with Android, and version 7 to compete with the iPhone.

I guess the big question will be if developers will be able to target both operating systems without having to make changes to the code or the interface in order to get them to work. I don't think developers will like a fractured platform where they have to take the specific of each version into account. However, if developers don't have to worry about that, and applications will run unaltered on both platforms - how will Microsoft differentiate between the two?

To me, this seems like a confusing strategy that won't do consumers any good. Time will tell how it pans out, but I have a suspicion the market will be brutal to sch a strategy.

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