Most of the recent articles on the web have simply added fuel to the fire with regards to whether Microsoft is actually planning on delivering to the market its own Windows Mobile device. Let's quickly discuss why this is both a good and a bad thing for our Redmondian friends.
- The Good: No matter how good the devices from HTC, Palm, Samsung, et al. have been, they just do not compare to the popularity of the iPhone. Apple controls the entire stack and has created an iconic device. Speaking of controlling the entire stack, this is not an unpopular strategy. Palm, RIM, and Nokia also follow the same strategy, making their own hardware for their mobile OS (yes, I know that Symbian is open source, but who else is really doing anything in scale with it now?) This would provide Microsoft the opportunity to control its own destiny. Apple and Palm have proven that you don't need 22 different models to have tremendous success with a platform. ONE or TWO great devices can certainly do the trick. While Google's Android is getting a lot of buzz these days, only time will tell how successful it truly is.
- The Bad: This is pretty simple. This will very much go against the original strategy of letting OEM partners develop their own hardware. This is exactly what happened when Microsoft created the Zune MP3 player. Now how many manufacturers make portal music devices using Microsoft's Windows Media tecnology? Very few if any. I'm not one to track consumer electronics, but I wonder how the number of Zunes sold (not counting the latest Zune HD) compares to where things were when multiple OEMs made their own Windows Media devices (for lack of a better term).
So let's keep on the Zune theme. This would not be the first time Microsoft makes its own hardware. Beyond the Zune, there's of course the XBOX and all the PC peripherals that Microsoft makes. So I am going to put a stake in the ground. I think Microsoft should do it.
Microsoft has lost so much ground of late with Windows Mobile that it can NOT count on any partner, no matter how close they are, to right the ship. While Microsoft always likes to talk about CHOICE, I say not this time.
One of the problems that so many ISVs and mobility management companies have is the problem of supporting the myriad Windows Mobile devices available out there. In this case, simplicity is a VERY good thing. Simplicity is elegance. This goes back to when I suggested Microsoft listen to the great words of Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Peter Crris and Ace Frehley. Make the KISS edition of Windows Mobile devices. If you still feel compelled to provide choice.... then offer two devices. But make them YOURS.
Update: Now there is speculation that this really is coming. Gizmodo alleges to have pictures of what the devices look like. If true, I'm sorry, but I wouldn't characterize this as a step in the right direction.