Windows Mobile needs work

This may come as no surprise to those of you who read our Motorola Q piece last week, but it does affect the coming ’smartphone war,’ so here goes. Grace Ho, director of Microsoft’s Mobile and Embedded Devices (MED) Division for Asia Pacific, admitted recently at an enterprise mobility conference in Melbourne, Australia, that despite the positive response to the recent release of Windows Mobile 5, Microsoft still has a long way to go with the OS.

Microsoft has been facing harsh criticisms from the enterprise community over stability and upgradability concerns. Upgrading WM5 handsets require that the OS be completely overwritten and all data erased — presenting potential data concurrency issues for companies wanting to optimize their devices with the latest patches. Enterprises are also unable to upgrade to WM5 from devices running Windows Mobile 2003, with a similar restriction on WM5 devices for forthcoming versions of the OS.

“Given the rapid evolution of technology and wireless networks, I’m wondering what’s the real working life of that initial investment?” one seminar attendee grilled the gathered executives. “You build your ROI on the expectation of two to three years’ working life, but you sit down 12 months later and have to upgrade it. I’m taking about having to justify to my board that this is going to benefit users in the long term.”

Ho responded to the criticisms, saying, “We plan to come up with a device management strategy and we are working on that. It is definitely in our roadmap to make sure that we eventually have a longer-term device management strategy.”

If Microsoft underestimates the importance of hammering these kinks out of Windows Mobile, it could mean a tough road ahead in their attempts to dethrone RIM as enterprise solution leaders.

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