No mention of Linux.

RL

Microsoft Wants To Extend Mobile OS Reach, But Doubts Remain

April 01, 2008: 06:16 PM EST


LAS VEGAS -(Dow Jones)- While Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) wants to expand
beyond business customers, it remains to be seen if the mix of
improvements to its Windows Mobile operating system will be able to
get the job done.

The Redmond, Wash., software giant has pushed hard to get its foot in
the mobile door through its operating system, and now wants to bust it
open. At the CTIA Wireless trade show on Wednesday, it unveiled the
latest version of its operating system, which features tweaks to
improve the user interface and better appeal to consumers. Some
critics, however, said the improvements won't be sufficient to truly
reach out to the mass market.

"Windows Mobile has been quite successful at meeting the needs of the
enterprise user," said Avi Greengart, an analyst at market research
firm Current Analysis. "That said, I eagerly await a complete overhaul
of the user interface."

Microsoft has made strides in getting its software into smartphones.
The company boasts that Windows Mobile will power 20 million
smartphones. That trails only privately held Symbian Ltd., which runs
most of Nokia Corp.'s (NOK) handsets, which also includes simpler
phones.

As a result, it's better known in corporate circles. But the company
wants to reach out to more consumers. The shift comes at a time when
more consumers are considering upgrading their basic handsets.

"Windows Mobile is not just for business phones," said Robert Bach,
head of the entertainment and devices unit of Microsoft, in an
interview with Dow Jones Newswires. "It's a phone for people."

Windows Mobile has been regarded as a solid tool for professionals,
but never really appealed to casual consumers. The Apple Inc. (AAPL)
iPhone's user interface and Safari Web browser, for example, are seen
as offering a better experience.

Microsoft's newest version, Windows Mobile 6.1, allows users to more
easily surf full Web pages on the cellphone than they could in the
past. The company also upgraded the user interface so things are
easier to reach and set-up. The new version will be made available to
phone manufacturers in the third quarter, with devices hitting the
market by the end of the year.

Many of the different upgraded features are found in other phones,
Back said, but he argued the innovation comes from the combination of
the multiple changes into one package.

There are no new game-changers in the latest update, but changes are
definitely needed, according to Maribel Lopez, founder and analyst at
telecom consultancy firm Lopez Research.

The upgraded operating system is the latest move that Microsoft has
made to go after the consumer market. In February, the company agreed
to acquire privately held Danger Inc., which makes software for the
Sidekick mobile text devices. In November, it acquired Musiwave SA,
which provides mobile music services to carriers and media companies.

If Microsoft Corp. can successfully pull off its announced acquisition
of Yahoo Inc. (YHOO), it could gain a major edge in the mobile arena.
Yahoo has been making a similarly strong push with its Yahoo Go mobile
Web browser.

Bach declined to comment on the progress of any potential deal.

"I haven't spent much time looking at it," he said about the potential
to fold Yahoo's mobile business into Microsoft. "We'll wait and see
how they come out."

On the enterprise side, Microsoft said it would make available its
System Center Mobile Device Manager, which allows corporate IT
managers to better run the smartphones on their internal company
systems.

The service also includes better security and allows the smartphones
to create a virtual private network connection to the corporate
system.

Microsoft, however, faces stiff competition from Research in Motion
Ltd. ( RIMM). A legion of corporate workers still rely on their
Blackberry email devices, and the company has a lock on much of the
enterprise market. Apple, meanwhile, recently unveiled a set of
enterprise programs in an attempt to get into the segment.

Bach noted phones with Windows Mobile were comfortably ahead of the
iPhone and Blackberry devices.

-By Roger Cheng, Dow Jones Newswires; 201-938-2020;
roger.chengATdowjones.com